#PAIR2004 #PAIRRM Lessons Learnt from a Day’s Discussions

Today was the fateful day that we presented our dissertation proposals through the medium of academic poster. It was a great couple of hours of informal chit chat where you were inevitably left holding a wineglass full of carbonated water at one point or another. Although I was certainly proud of what I presented and I’m certainly enthusiastic about my topic there were certainly some lessons to take away. 

Firstly though, the topic I have settled on is ‘What is the perception of cannabis by employers in the UK?’. This organically grew out of my fretting about the possibility that I might struggle to get a job with a dissertation that recommends the legalisation of cannabis. When I asked the ever knowledgeable Matt Ryan on whether I’d struggle to get a job he essentially suggested I found out. So I drew up some ideas and settled on the duel approach of both a survey and an experiment. Briefly, the experiment idea is that I create 3 cvs which show varying degrees of engagement with cannabis culture ranging from none at all to membership of political pressure groups in favour of legalisation. I would then distribute these and see which gets the most response (with the hopes being that there’s some sense of correlation between the engagement and the attention the candidate receives). The experiment is a great way of creating external validity by practising the theory in the real world while the survey will ensure that I have plenty of quantitative data to work with and generalise the finding again giving greater validity.

So, topic in hand I moved towards producing the poster which was a completely alien practise to me. I looked up some examples, attended all the relevant sessions and felt fairly confident going in. Undoubtedly though, I gave one piece of advice too much importance which was the general suggestion to keep the word limit at approximately 500 words. Having wrote about 1000 words which I wanted to be included on the poster I began stripping back and simplifying until I had a product which worked well in the format I was looking for. I also wanted the poster to be accessible and hence the language used may not have been as ‘academically revered’ as it could have been.

When I was putting up my poster, it certainly drew attention with its colour and bold headline but then as others went up it became abundantly clear that I just hadn’t put enough content up. Others had great bibliographies, in depth information on their topics and extensive literacy reviews while mine attempted to slot all of that in about 200 words. It was frankly embarrassing, but at the same time a learning experience that I’ve certainly gained from. Plus the feedback from academics was absolutely invaluable. In short if I could do it again, I’d definitely do it better. 

Where to move now is to tighten the focus of my plan i.e. planning the survey in detail to get  data which best represents UK employers. This practically translates to learning more about the employers of the UK so I can distribute the surveys proportionately to the significance of each sector of employment.



#UOSM2008 Topic 4: Ethics and Social Media

There are literally hundreds of issues when discussing social media from an ethical perspective with the general majority being very well highlighted by Santa Clara University (whose opinion is especially credible given their location in Silicon Valley; the home of new technology and media) here. I’d personally like to focus on the idea of the ethics of being offensive on social media. 

In my past as a dumb teenager I can certainly say that I was guilty of posting (at very best) risque material which was not appropriate or worthwhile. As a dumb teenager  I have also been guilty of saying inappropriate things in real life as I’d think is true of all of us. What I’m trying to highlight here is that I didn’t say stupid things because I was on Facebook. I said them because I was a stupid person whose perception of what was right and wrong was, put simply, wrong. 

As a less dumb twenty year old I am now a much better judge of what is appropriate as I’ve grown as a human being and in the process I’ve grown into the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Saying that something is less or more offensive as it’s on social media is a complete falsehood and using the examples of both the racial abuse of football player Sammy Ameobi and the very interesting example of Justine Sacco it’s easy to explain. The comments made in these examples would be no less acceptable outside of the internet, it’s simply a case that more people saw them, and there was a permanent record of them taking place. On the basis that what they said was wrong, the individuals were held responsible either through the being prosecuted by the law or by being fired (and criticised by millions) respectively. 

Is this to say that ‘offensive’ material has no place on social media? No: the idea that something is offensive is subjective and  the idea that you can clear the world of offensive material is the same as clearing the world of opinion. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I’m a staunch defender of free speech and the idea that people should be banned from social media for subjectively offensive comments is wrong. The followers of Frankie Boyle for example would be the first to tell you that his comments could be perceived as offensive but they still follow him for humour, the same reason they would go to his shows or watch him on TV. 

The exceptions to this are when something is misjudged and hence serve no purpose other than to offend. Although Mrs Sacco did not post her tweet to offend for example, her tweet was devoid of any substance other than offence. Her utter failure to identify this was her fault as a person, not the fault of twitter. 

I’d like to close on China. I’ve written at length on the topic of China and the internet here but in short, it is a world dominated by the State’s decision of what is appropriate and conversely offensive. If there is anyone who lives in the freedom of a liberal democracy who attempts to argue that greater censorship is desirable on the internet, they need only read of the horrors of Liu Xiabo to realise that it’s a slippery slope no one wants to begin sliding down. 

Oh and one last thing: Here is comedian Steve Hughs’ take on being offended. He makes a lot of sense (if being marginally bullish). Its all funny but if you wish to skip to his views on offence it starts at about 3:30.

#UOSM2018 Topic 3 Summary

Reflecting on creating an online professional profile has been, in short, difficult. With hundreds of potential approaches and thousands of criterias to meet it’s impossible to address the whole issue without either a book or massive generalisation e.g. if you want a good online profile participate in everything online perfectly. 

That would be useless though, so I think my approach of focusing in on two key issues was a good way of going about things however from both reading other people’s blogs and, more importantly this week, reading feedback on my blog I certainly neglected some important aspects of building an online profile. I think most notable was the comment from Yee-Ping who observed that my reliance on blogs was flawed given the lack of time most employers will spend reviewing candidates. Although my suggestion of a strong Twitter timeline would go some way to giving a good short term impression, a strong LinkedIn page is far more important. Given that I attached very little importance to LinkedIn in general, I’ve clearly overlooked a very important aspect.

Beyond this fault, I think my blog this week was my favorite so far. I’m finally beginning to get comfortable with the blogging style and how to communicate both substance and style through the medium. I also had the honour of having my blog tweeted to all of David Hall’s (@David_Hall) 31 thousand followers. For someone like David who has had so much success in the field of social media to tweet my blog was both exceptionally gratifying and proof (as if we needed it) that getting online is a great way to get yourself out there and reaching new people: the kind of people who may well want to employ you.

What a convenient conclusion for this Topic eh? 

#UOSM2008 Topic 3: Building your Online Professional Profile

Discuss the ways in which an authentic online professional profile can be developed

In an ever digitising present the world of employment is quickly moving online. The issue for a budding prospect at University is the rest of existence is following suit with socialising, shopping and entertainment transferring to the net. As a result, dissecting one’s personal and professional profile is no longer the case of changing from jeans into a suit. Instead, the two spheres are linked by twitter handles and Facebook pages, an issue which brings opportunity both for failure and success.

Building a successful online profile is comparable to playing cards with potential employers: although it’s important to play your aces, there are some jokers you’d much rather keep close to your chest. The latter here translates to ensuring potentially off-putting photos, posts and videos are out of reach of future bosses. Even for the non-‘tech savvy’ employers of the world, Googling potential prospects is an immediate way of delving into the person behind a paper CV with a survey by Jobvite in 2010 finding that 92% of companies who were actively hiring in the next year planned to use social media in their employee search (http://davidhallsocialmedia.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/jobvite-2010-social-recruiting-report_2.pdf).  4 years on this number will be higher, while equally social media’s influence has grown and intruded more significantly. Hence, keeping potentially embarrassing items off the net entirely or at very least behind the safety of privacy settings is crucial for an online professional profile.

With the jokers taken care of, it’s now a case of laying your best cards down and presenting yourself in the best possible light. This translates to dynamic and consistent activity on the net to build a representative picture of what is unique and appealing about the candidate. The internet provides a wealth of opportunity on how best to go about this, but for me personally blogging and microblogging provide the best opportunities. The power of twitter is in its concise limitations of 140 characters where a person’s understanding and opinion all have to come across in a small package. Seeing posts relating to the profession indicate both a genuine interest and a sense of engagement with the sector outside of just one company. Employers will need no more than 5 minutes to consume an individual’s last 30 tweets, and in this they could be convinced one way or another. As for blogging (and indeed vlogging for those who are apt in the practice of new media), having a portfolio of interesting and entertaining work in the shape of a blog will create a single location to direct employers who want a full impression. Cover letters aside, there is little opportunity on a CV to shine outside of empirical achievement. Hence the blog can be seen as the heart of an online professional, giving a face to grades and pass achievements.

As for the CV, when discussing online employment there is one website which is universally utilised as the hub of the jobs market: LinkedIn. Put simply, LinkedIn should serve as both the administration of a professional online profile (i.e. contact details, education details etc.) and as a hub for the rest of it by providing links to twitter, blogs and any other online asset.  The best LinkedIn pages are accurate, precise and to the point to give a fast first impression to potential employers. From here, those who are interested can be navigated away from LinkedIn to get a full impression of their respective candidate. Hence maintaining all aspects of an online professional profile to a high standard is crucial to creating the overall impression which is intended, with each playing a specific role in the process of becoming noticed and employed.

Finally, on the idea of making a profile authentic, being truthful and original in thought are the two key aspects. The latter should be especially true while blogging and tweeting with issues of plagiarism potentially being lethal to an individual’s chances of success. Outside of being fraudulent, passing off someone elses work for your own is immoral and the sort of practise which undermines the whole point of an online profile: identity. To a degree, this also means going beyond tweeting every relevant article with a bland comment on the piece being good. Authenticity stems from original thought and as I’ve detailed there should be plenty of this as a part of a strong online profile.



Wall Street Journal article on Twitter’s role in employment: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323820304578412741852687994?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424127887323820304578412741852687994.html

A blog by David Hall on managing your online reputation: http://davidhallsocialmedia.com/2011/02/02/reputationmanagement/


Additional Resources

Individuals who may never get a job again thanks to racist Obama orientated tweets: http://jezebel.com/5958993/racist-teens-forced-to-answer-for-tweets-about-the-nigger-president

A voluntary weekly article at PWTorch I got through having a strong online profile: http://pwtorch.com/artman2/publish/The_Specialists_34/article_76807.shtml#.Ux1wofl_vuU

#PAIR2004 Early Stages

This is my first blog specifically on the study of Research Methods in Social Sciences a.k.a. PAIR2004 at Southampton University. It’s a course which will be the most important component of my whole degree given its influence on both my dissertation and my ability to create credible research: the skill any academic should seek to pursue. It’s also the course which has redirected and refocused my attentions at university and my ideas of studying in general. The reasons for this essentially boil down to a number of subtitles, and who doesn’t love a subtitle?



I’d argue that anyone doing politics has a fundamental interest in power and how it affects them as individuals, with much of my own work centred around the very topic. What’s been empowering about this course has been the transition from student to potentially relevant individual in the world of political thought. It’s as if the light at the end of a 17 year education tunnel can finally be seen and although I’m wearing proverbial sunglasses at the moment while I get used to that light, I’m looking forward to trying to make a difference. For now, I’m reading scholarly articles with a sense of intellectual arrogance that allows me to be a lot more critical and perceptive and although I’ve not yet got the grades to justify that approach, it is improving my work. That’s basically the right direction, right?


Using Scientific Method

Before PAIR2004 a dissertation to me was 10,000+ words on a purposefully vague essay title. Now, it seems more like drawing up the plans for a lego house, with the bricks being the potential research methods. I’ve got a toolbox of big red bricks and little yellow bricks and a Darth Vader figure and once I understand where my dissertation is going (more on this later) I’ll know which research methods I’ll pick to construct Vader’s bachelor pad. It makes the idea of research much more tangible and accessible and combined with the idea that my work could really matter, has me excited to work on my dissertation.


Relevance and the Internet

In the work I’ve done in PAIR2004 and, more so, UOSM2008 I’m beginning to really utilise my excessive internet use to further my future career. Knowing where to post political thought and knowing not to be a total idiot on twitter have come together to start making a good online profile which I can point people to in the (unlikely) event of potential employment. It’s also the best place to engage with individuals on contemporary issues because not only do you get real time feedback, but you can get relevant information from people on location. That’s such an invaluable asset when there are so many potential variables in play. Trying to break down the situation in Ukraine for example, is almost impossible to do without the filter of media opinion, but reading accounts from real Ukrainian citizens suffering from the horrendous conditions gives a much more realistic impression of what’s actually going on. Online communities I’ve grown into this year have shown me the politics of Thailand, Uganda and even parts of Indonesia. In short, involving information in my daily surfing has made me a better student. Now I have to build on that and do more of these blogs to document where this ultimately leads to.


Okay, so thats where I am conceptually with the course; now for the more practical progress. With our group project we are looking to provide a piece of research for the Cabinet Office on the topic of mutuals. To me mutuals are the real implications of Cameron’s ‘big society’ which in layman’s terms are  private companies which are based in the concept of giving back to society. Defining the term in its entirety took a week and 10 university students, so I’m sure you can sympathise that trying to sum it up in a sentence is a bit of nightmare, however for all intents and purposes this will do for now.

The project took a while to get going in all honesty due to a lack of communication and, more significantly, being very early into the course we were all a bit clueless on what research in social sciences actually amounted to. But we’ve grown together, identified our talents and are now ready to really make some headway into a piece of research we can all be proud of. 

As for my dissertation I’m not where I want to be just yet. I’m a giddy fat child in a sweet shop at the moment (a metaphor I’ve had a lot of personal experience with) with loads of ideas to potentially settle on. My heart is torn between working either on theory surrounding 9/11, as thats a topic which interests me to no end, and researching the potential effect of legalising cannabis in the UK. The latter provides a topic that is hugely relevant (although with a little less trepidation from parties a real debate could take place) and the idea that my research could add to this conversation is hugely important and persuasive to me. However at the same time I think that the results of my research will be that legalising marijuana would have generally positive effects on the UK. If that is the outcome will I be able to avoid the stigma of being a student who advocated the legalisation of weed in 10,000 words? However good that research is, and however well received it is, will an employee be able to overlook the fact the topic is weed? Essentially, can I do that research and not be stereotyped as a stoner by someone getting a first impression of what I can offer? It has my mum worried (partially because I think even raising the topic has her believing I’m essentially Seth Rogen) and I’ll be honest it has me worried too, especially as this piece of work will make up the main component of my portfolio of work. 

However at the same time; would I be a coward for not tackling something I really want to influence? We’re taught the importance of academia and academic study as a part of PAIR2004 and to me, if I don’t try to make a change, I’m not being the academic I want to be. 

I think some meetings with the likes of Mr Matt Ryan are in order as this is a dilemma which I’m struggling with. Is researching cannabis this early in my pursuit of academic and career success brave or stupid? Once I answer that, I think I’ll have an answer to what my dissertation topic will be. 

Otherwise thankyou for your time and I’ll post a blog on the topic of PAIR2004 once some developments have been made. 

Reflecting on Topic 2: Multiple Online Personalities

Reflecting back on the topic of multiple personalities is difficult for me as although I think I have a solid grip of the topic area, the practical difficulties I’ve had this week have been very frustrating.

The topic of multiple online personalities to me first broke down to two basic identities: a profile with a real name (i.e. Facebook) or being online and anonymous. This could be either with a pseudonym (i.e. a screen name on Reddit) or without any login and hence total anonymity. The last of these was what intrigued me as not only did it appeal to the politics degree I’m pursuing but was also relevant to a blog I recently wrote here and as a result was something I was already reasonably informed about.

As a result I focused in on the issue of whether anonymity should be permitted quite heavily. Having read other blogs, and in particular the work of Yee-Ping (available here) I initially thought this may have been the wrong approach. What this blog did so well was to encompass the whole issue while also bringing in a personal perception to set it apart from others. By comparison I considered a narrow field in more detail but having taken time to consider the point I think both are as valid as each other as they can be contrasted and debated. Is this not the heart of academic study?

The main issues I’ve had this week have been practical. The first one is I’m still struggling to adapt to the style of blogs and learning how to balance an informative essay style with the more personable and entertaining nature of bloggers I read. I think this week I went too far towards informal perhaps and this will be something that I can address following feedback. Secondly I’ve had a lot of difficulty with the actual wordpress software this week, with drafts not saving, tag and topic options not appearing and the same buttons doing different things with every click. You may have seen 10 minutes where 7 versions of the same blog appeared which was obviously frustrating and took a long time to sort out. It’s been important to me, and more so than on any other module I’ve done, that my work is of a high quality for a couple of reasons. Its mainly as this module has taught us all that what you put on the internet is a representation of you and particularly with this blog, where I’ve started building a portfolio of work, putting sub par work up is something I want to avoid. This is particularly true when peers are reviewing my work as many have done. We have our own little UOSM2008 community and the better my work is, the prouder I am to show it off to individuals pursuing the same goal. It should, in theory, also improve our collective knowledge so there’s a big incentive to work hard and produce the best possible blog. For me this means leaving more time for potential technical hitches as well as more time to review work before posting.

In short plenty to chew on. Here’s a rabbit in a similar situation.

The Social Pressures on the Businesswomen of China

Chinese New Year is a time of family in China, with the young men and women of China’s ever expanding social middle class travelling out of the big cities to visit family in more rural areas. With expectation radiating from mothers at home, those who are yet to find a significant other have turned to a rather odd sector which did very good business during late January and early February.

The idea of renting a lover seems almost oxymoronic in design; however for those young people with a decent wage in pocket it’s preferable to facing awkward questions at the dinner table. According to The Huffington Post (2014, available here) this pressure applies in particular to women due to the massive gender imbalance created by the one child policy. This amounts to an extraordinary 20 million more men than women under the age of 30 (Huffington Post 2014) and as a result, the social pressure on women is much higher than for men (due to the comparitively grand selection available). Those women who are single around New Years are called ‘shengv’ which directly translates to ‘leftover women’; a linguistically brutal reminder of the burden they face.

Hence there is now an industry revolving around renting a beau which is growing according to the Financial Times (2014, available here) where successful businesswomen hire men for anything from companionship, purely to show their parents, to sex. The prices are exceptionally fluid with entrepreneurial man for hire Sui Wei admitting (in a similar vein to many others in his line of work) he bases his starting rental charges on how successful the women are, and then add fees based on what actions they require of them. The latter is perhaps the most unsettling part of the story, with CBC news (2014, available here) reporting acting boyfriend Zhu Ruisen’s charges included $1 each time the couple held hands, while hugs and kisses were to be negotiated with the individual. As for the participation and price of sex, this depends on the individual offering the service. Although this is something both Mr Zhu and Mr Sui do not provide, mainly due to real girlfriends outside of work, the Financial Times (2014) report that this can cost anything from 3000 Yuan to 30,000, the equivalent of approximately £300 – £3000. The financial aim for Mr Zhu (which is again characteristic of the industry) is to charge his clients approximately one month’s salary in total (CBC News, 2014).

How to assess this business is difficult. One could interpret it as an innovative exploitation of supply and demand by those men looking to score a New Year bonus, while one could equally see it as a cynical form of prostitution (as if prostitution wasn’t inherently cynical enough). The individuals interviewed by the news sources above all admitted some feelings of guilt, with Mr Sui admitting a low point was accepting large quantities of money in a traditional red wedding envelope from one client’s parents. The overwhelming truth either way is that with such an imbalance of gender due to the one child policy, and the pressure of terminology like ‘leftover women’ being tossed around, this service is one that will inevitably grow and prosper into the future.

The solution is an almost crippling case of irony, with the procreation of the current generation being the key to addressing the gender imbalance and hence relieving the pressure felt by the successful business women of China. In simple terms; to address the problem of women being forced to act like they have a boyfriend in future, women have to get a boyfriend today. In the meantime, Mr Zhu and Mr Sui will continue successfully making big money for their services, a financial achievement that this free market fan can’t help but admire.