Sunday, September 27, 2009

Need Help Coming up with a Suitable Research Area

Just two weeks into my PhD studies and already I will soon have to submit a research proposal. It's a class requirements to help us submit for grants, so we're not tied to it.

Still, I've been frantically trying to narrow down my areas of research interest to prepare for my grant submissions. Although a useful process, it comes ages before I planned. I had hoped taking classes and pursuing an independent study plan would lead to suitable research questions.

The overall area I wanted to focus on was online participatory democracy and civic engagement.  All research I have found on this has been rather nihilistic - almost convincing me that it is the wrong track.

So I need your help to devise a feasible, interesting, and original (multiyear) study.

Here are my top ideas so far (in order of my greatest interest in first):
1) Will introducing new mechanisms to filter noise in a political website increase users' [both citizens and civic leaders] sense of engagement (or satisfaction)?
2) How can noise filtration and serendipity (to avoid "inbreeding homophily") co-exist in an online interface in a manner users find useful?
3) How to overcome usability limitations of the use of QR codes and the mobile web?
4) Are genre specific usability guidelines more useful to web practitioners than generic ones?
5) Will Google's Rich Snippets provide the impetus for the use of microformats to hit critical mass?

Two topics I've discounted already are:
a) Can features be added to Facebook to resegment and recontextualize our domestic, work, and familial identies?
b) How can web accessibility support be more transparent in authoring tools, particularly Dreamweaver?

Any help in any regard is greatly appreciated!


Anonymous said...

Your approach to understanding the internet and state of politics among the masses is very interesting. Have you spent any time on

From a theoretical stand point, I can see the possibility of a communication breakdown in two important areas:
1. The idea that too much waters down the potential. Here, what I mean is that two many physical sources to publish thoughts creates a chaos that is without order. For instance, the lines between opinion, which most of what people publish on the internet is, and fact or research become blurred. This allows people to become influenced by ideas that maybe appealing because for emotional, rhetorical, or other means but is without substance. More simply put, the problem is bigger than smaller.
2. Only experts read the experts. The internet has opened up the communication lines, but I think people within the same strospheres of kowledge and curiousity interact with each other. Does the average joe read the column in the financial times (arguably one of the best newspapers out there)? So the internet may in fact have an achilles heel, in that the masses are not more easily influenced by base ideas. Thus, apathy would only result. True ideas last and bring ones deeper intelletcual faculties to the forfront of reality. Base ideas dumb down the ideal, such as liberty.

Glen Farrelly said...

Thanks for the help. I hadn't heard of Hubpages before. Not sure exactly of its unique value at first glance, so I will have to delve deeper.

I do want to examine the role of authority and opinion leaders in users assessing online content. However, I don't want this to become a trap which idealizes prior hierarchical notions of expertise.