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!