Category Archives: Social Sciences

What’s your Google Search Story?

Google have released a new fun tool to enable people to create their own Google “Search Stories”

All you need to do is type in your search terms, choose the search service(s) you wish to use – Books, News, Blogs, Images, Web search etc. – pick some appropriate music and then the video is created automagically.

Here’s an example looking at the economic crisis:

It’s easy to see that with a few tweaks, this could be turned into an educational tool.

For example, in the Internet for Economics VTS tutorial where we look at search strategies on Google it could provide a visual walkthrough of the educational point that:

  • Searching on economic crisis returns many millions of results, all of which contain both the keywords “economic” AND “crisis” (note: Google automatically returns results containing both keywords).
  • Searching for economic OR crisis returns even more records. This is because OR returns all those Web pages that contain either the word “economic”, or the word “crisis”.
  • Searching on “economic crisis” returns fewer results. This is because Google only returns those resources containing the exact phrase. A page about “economic responses to energy crisis” would not be included.

In order to become an educational tool, it would help if:

  • Google Scholar was added to the list searches to add to the videos
  • Users could vary the length of time each search was on screen
  • There was some choice in the “pan and scan” options each search uses

Alas, at the moment – it feels as though you are just creating an advert for Google – and to be fair to them, the inspiration for it did come from their Super Bowl ad about finding love in Paris.

However, there are plenty of videos being uploaded to the Google Search Stories YouTube channel, even if some of them are subverting the system ever so slightly.

Intute features more Internet resources on the economic crisis and more subject specific tutorials in the Virtual Training Suite.

ESRC Festival of Social Science

The ESRC Festival of Social Science is happening from 12-21 March 2010 as part of National Science and Engineering Week.

The 2010 Festival of Social Science features over 130 events happening in 7 regions and in over 40 different cities in the UK.

You can follow what’s happening at the Festival via:

It celebrates some of the country’s leading social science research, giving an exciting opportunity to showcase the valuable work of the UK’s social scientists and demonstrate how their work has an impact on all our lives.

Events are aimed at a range of different audiences, including policy makers, business, the media, the general public and students of all ages. Events come in a variety of formats from traditional lectures and exhibitions to theatrical performances, film screenings, topical debates and even a trip to Second Life.

Intute features more Internet resources from the Economic and Social Research Council about the Social Sciences.

How does the Internet see you?

Personas asks the question – how does the Internet see you?

Try the Personas search, see it build up a categorisation of how the Internet sees you on the fly and see how that matches your reality.

Personas is a critique of data-mining that demonstrates the computer’s uncanny insights and its inadvertent errors, such as the mischaracterizations caused by the inability to separate data from multiple owners of the same name.

Below is a short film showing a Personas search for Intute captured using Screenr – a browser based screencasting tool. A larger version can be seen via the full screen icon or by viewing it from the Screenr website.

This gives a fairly true snapshot of how Intute is described online – with plenty of good descriptions of what we do, some nice reviews from users and a few things you may not have encountered – primarily because it uses Yahoo for the search data rather than Google.

Try a personal name rather than a corporate identity and you may encounter some different results. It was gratifying to see that I was identified as the Economics Editor of Intute on the very first selection – but the categorizations seemed rather bizarre.

It certainly succeeded in getting me thinking about whether data mining is really technologically neutral or just dependent upon how creators of algorithms choose to model the world and which inputs / outputs they use, plus it is a timely reminder of the trail of data we leave online.

While academics may be more concerned about how their identity is represented in traditional academic outputs – see the Mimas / British Library Names project – their online identity may be just as important.

What sort of web animal are you?

The Web Behaviour Test aims to find out what sort of web animal you are by surveying your web habits, as well as, testing your Internet searching and multi-tasking skills.

It is split into three main parts:

  • A survey of your web habits – how long you spend on various types of Internet activity, such as email, social networks etc.
  • Web search tasks – that look at how you formulate a search query, how long you take looking at search results and the sort of sites that you trust.
  • Multi-tasking tests –  a series of Flash games that seem to test your short term memory and ability to do more than one thing at a time.

At the end of the test you are assigned a web animal based on your answers – are you slow or fast moving, solitary or sociable, adaptable or specialised – to see if you are a Fox, Hedgehog, Octopus etc.

The test is part of the Virtual Revolution TV series from the BBC that has been looking at how the Internet has shaped politics, economics, society and people – the final episode Homo Interneticus – featured academic contributions from the CIBER centre at UCL who produced the Google Generation report that was based in part, on a user evaluation of Intute.

Having done the test – there are a few questions still in my mind …

Self-selecting sample? The main way of finding out about the test was by watching the Virtual Revolution programme and as Phil Bradley pointed out, there was such a high demand following the broadcast that the server fell over, but isn’t this a sample of people pre-disposed to be interested users of the Internet?

The science bit Some of the categories of Internet activity seemed to overlap, meaning that the survey results could be skewed and the Flash games seemed to be just a very basic way of testing short term memory – the science behind the test isn’t very enlightening and I’d like to know more about their thinking.

Who do you think you are? The majority of the people I know who have taken the test wound up as Foxes – just like me – perhaps it would have been interesting to get people to assign themselves to one of the categories after taking the test, but before revealing their results to see how good they were at assessing their own Internet activity.

… but feel free to make up your own mind by taking the Web Behaviour Test and perhaps letting us know in the comments – what sort of web animal are Intute users?

Intute features more resources aimed at improving your Internet research skills, including the Virtual Training Suite and the Internet Detective.

Demand Question Time

It may seem strange but some Americans are asking for their politics to be a little more like ours.

This does not mean that they want their own expenses scandals with Americanised versions of moats and duck houses paid for by the tax payer.

But the Demand Question Time campaign is trying to get the cut and thrust of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) to be a part of US political life.

It follows a recent open question session between President Obama and Republican Congressmen at the GOP House Issues conference in Baltimore which featured the sort of tough questions and frank answers that don’t normally happen in front of the TV cameras in US politics.

While PMQs are often criticised in Britain for being formulaic or the worst example of yah-boo politics, they are a hit with political junkies from other countries and at least offer a regular opportunity for political leaders to cross swords and be held to account.

The Demand Question Time campaign has garnered support from left and right in the States, although the online petition has only garnered some 15,000 signatures – a similar number to those on the 10 Downing Street e-petitions website asking the government to “stop criminalising live music” in small scale venues like schools, hospitals and pubs.

It remains to be seen whether the Demand Question Time campaign will be successful or not – but a Sky News campaign for US style leaders debates in the upcoming British general election made it and their online petition had a remarkably similar level of support.

Intute features more Internet resources on Government and Politics.

Digital nations or virtual revolutions?

Two new TV programmes on the role of the Internet in our lives have started on either side of the Atlantic.

The Virtual Revolution is a four part BBC series presented by Dr. Aleks Krotoski.

It will look at how the Internet has changed society, politics, the economy and people.

The website includes all the videos used in the series which can be downloaded and remixed, a list of research links on Delicious and a blog supporting the series.

The first programme aired last night and some of the reaction in the Twitterverse seemed to be disappointed that it wasn’t a straight history of the Internet, but rather advancing an argument about the impact of the Internet on society that can be agreed / disagreed with.

Digital Nation is a PBS programme produced by Rachel Dretzin and Douglas Rushkoff.

It will look at how the Internet is changing the pace of life, our relationships, how we wage war, live in virtual worlds and how we learn.

The website includes more videos than may feature in the broadcast, online learning resources for parents / educators and a blog supporting the programme.

The full programme airs online from tomorrow, but from watching a few of the many clips, some people may question why it is still advancing the digital natives thesis, when the nomenclature of digital residents and digital visitors seems to better fit the evidence as to how people behave online.

Fear the boom and bust

Fear the boom and bust is the first video from the new EconStories.tv website

In the video, John Maynard Keynes and F. A. Hayek, two of the great economists of the 20th century, come back to life to attend an economics conference on the economic crisis. Before the conference begins, and at the insistence of Lord Keynes, they go out for a night on the town and sing about why there’s a “boom and bust” cycle in modern economies and good reason to fear it.

The website includes a few key links to find out more about Keynes and Hayek, details about the EconStories.tv project and even lets you download the Fear the boom and bust rap as an mp3 file.

Intute features more Internet resources on Economics.

Ofqual plagiarism guides for students, parents and teachers

Ofqual – the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator – has issued advice to students, parents and teachers on citing information sources appropriately to avoid plagiarism.

Produced in association with PlagiarismAdvice.org this series of guides is aimed at those in schools who are concerned about falling foul of plagiarism within coursework and assessments.

The advice for students – Using sources : a guide for students : find it, check it, credit it – refers them to the Internet Detective and the Internet for Image Searching as key tools for evaluating information online.

The guidance embraces the realities of the Internet age, recognising that students will use Google and Wikipedia, but encourages them to check their facts, be aware of bias and give credit where it is due.

It also refers to the Wikipedia selection for schools – a “free, hand-checked, non-commercial selection from Wikipedia, targeted around the UK National Curriculum” – a good example of how the academic world can engage with Web 2.0 sources.

While this advice is aimed at those in schools, University academics  concerned at the rise of a “cut and paste” culture will be grateful that this issue is being tackled and may reflect that this guidance would be of use to many undergraduates as well.

Intute features more subject specific Internet tutorials as part of the Virtual Training Suite.

Pre-Budget Report 2009

Pre-Budget Report 2009The Pre-Budget Report (PBR) 2009 has been delivered by Alistair Darling.

HM Treasury have produced a microsite that includes highlights and basic information and a brief explanation of what the PBR is in the form of a YouTube video.

They have also produced  a full site with accompanying documentation and data.

The BBC News website has a special section on the Pre-Budget Report bringing together their comment and analysis.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies have brought together their research and commentary resources, as well as promising a briefing analysing the PBR within 24 hours.

Intute features more Internet resources on the topics of Macroeconomic Policy, Budgets and Economics.

Economists Online

Economists Online is a bibliographic reference service for economists produced by the Nereus consortium of economics departments based at a number of European universities. It includes details of institutions, scholars and their academic publications and datasets; based around bibliographic references, many with links to open access full text.

Much of the service is based around a cross search of RePEc (Research Papers in Economics) data from economics researchers, that forms the basis of EconPapers and other services. Users can register for Economists Online to store results, see additions as RSS feeds and view publication lists for individual researchers.

Economists Online will officially launch in 2010 with an international conference on subject repositories, but you can help them develop the service by providing feedback on the current test version.

Intute features more Internet resources on the topic of Economics.