My current work employs a wide range of methodological tools to answer questions related to organisation studies.
“Ellen Pao is evil”: An inquiry into the collective discourse of Reddit backlash
Reddit is a social platform that acts as an aggregator for news (Bergstrom, 2011) and user-generated content that is subjected to the popular vote in order to gain acceptance by the community of redditors. With over nine thousand communities available on the platform (from DYI, funny pics to showerthoughts and photoshopbattles), Reddit has been at the forefront of intense debate about the freedom of speech on the Internet. One of the most recent episodes of crisis are related to Ellen Pao mandate as the head of the company. This episode had implications for both Pao and the Reddit community. Pao’s ‘vendetta’ with her former employer sparked a debate about gender discrimination, with a particular focus on women in high tech industry. However, Pao’s policies that banned certain communities on Reddit backlashed against her and her lawsuit.
This research paper has two main objectives. Firstly, it investigates the dissension between the online community and hierarchical power as represented by the governance structures of Reddit, and how this dissension relates to the topic of freedom of speech and gender discrimination and the tools used by the community to protect what they believe in. Secondly, it looks at the explicitness of the online media in portraying Pao as an ‘evil’ character that uses Reddit to put in practice her personal agenda. The online activism of the Reddit communities is a response to the change induced in the functioning of the community by moderators (censorship).
In order to achieve these objectives, the research makes use of text and concept mining techniques. The text corpora are extracted from various subreddits that contain narratives about Pao and her change agenda, as well as Twitter feeds clustered around news releases and YouTube parodies that are used as a mean of raising publicity for the community cause. The study seeks a better understanding of online communities, as well as delineate the type of online activism that is used in the case of the Reddit community backlash. Moreover, the study brings into the discussion the ethicality of unmoderated discussions and the particularities of the concept of ‘freedom of speech’ as understood by internauts.
Bergstrom, K. (2011) “Don’t feed the troll”: Shutting down debate about community expectations on Reddit.com, First Monday, vol. 16, no. 8, http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3498/3029
Visual narratives and the empowerment of the researched.
Images are intensively used in social science as a method of eliciting meaning. This study looks at the use of self-taken photography as a mean of empowering the researched to feed into the research process her own ontological conception. In the history of visual methods, scholars have used images as a tool for the researcher to uncover personal ‘truths’, and to see how meaning is embedded into the artefacts that decorate social spaces.
However, recent developments in ethnography have looked at the possibility to bridge practitioners and theorists. Based on Islam (2015) concept of para-ethnography, I argue that self-made analysis of visual images can be the key to a revisionist approach to decentring ethnography, through a transposition of methodological accountability from the researcher to the participants.
The paper applies the theoretical proposal to a convenience sample of members of business organisations. The participants in the study receive a disposable camera and the instructions to take photos of the most important artefacts that decorate their workplace. The images produced will be used by the respondents to construct visual narratives that will take the form of a log that will accompany the cameras. During this process, the respondents are required to theorize on their own imagistic production using a personal theory that covers five aspects of their work: form, context, content, process and mood.
This list is not exhaustive, as the participant in the study have the freedom to experiment with her own concepts of image construction.
The ‘theoretical narratives’ produced are parsed using a grounded theory approach. The purpose and importance of the study are multifold.
First of all, I seek to understand the epistemological implications of “outsourcing” methodological accountability to the researched and the role of image in facilitating this transposition. Second of all, photo elicitation has been widely used, but what is new in this study is the quest to understand what are the consequences when power is given to the researched to shape the research process. Eventually, this study aims to open a debate about the role of experimenting in visual methodology.