Methodology and literature review outline

I’ve been concentrating on my methodology, and I’ve been thinking carefully about paradigms and intellectual traditions, and which is best for me to approach my research question. There are two in particular:

  • Interactionism is concerned with understanding the individual and their interactions with other humans. Goffman, George Herbert Mead, among others, influenced this tradition. I’m looking at social media usage, so this approach potentially lends itself to the study of social media. A few have done this already (Murthy, 2012Rui and Stefanone, 2012, and I’m sure there are many others), and I remember citing Fernback’s (2007) symbolic interactionist perspective in my undergraduate dissertation about online communities. I’ve been reading Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and I’ll talk more about my thoughts on this later.
  • However, I am also looking to situate this within the wider context of communities and networks. In terms of new media and the internet, the work of Castells (2011) is particularly influential. Bourdieusian approaches are often utilised for looking at the creative industries (Wright, 2005; Hesmondalgh, 2006; Scott, 2012; Randle, Forson and Calverley, 2014) but I haven’t engaged much with this work yet. So I’m not sure of my approach at the moment, but I do think it is important for me to situate the micro-level of interaction within the wider context of the creative industries, especially as my original issue of debate is concerned with tensions between government rhetoric/policy, and the fluidity of the creative industries (Bilton, 2007).

From what I’ve read in and around my field so far, people have tended to ‘stick’ with one paradigm and use that on their object of study. I think having social media as my object of study gives scope for me to be more innovative in my approach because the platforms are constantly changing for various reasons (this in itself is an important consideration regarding medium, which I’ll come back to later). As mentioned in a previous post, not allowing methods to shift makes it difficult to “know differently, to shape new realities, or to imagine different ‘methods assemblages’ or modes of knowing” (Law, Ruppert, and Savage, 2011, p.13). Van Dijck (2013) draws upon actor-network theory and politicial economy perspective to look at the culture of connectivity, so it’s being done, and in this context.

As mentioned by Ruppert, Law and Savage (2013) methods themselves are of theoretical interest, and the authors argue that the lively nature of social media data gives us the potential to rethink theoretical and methodological assumptions in social science research. I agree, and the aim of my research is to contribute to this debate, which is why discussions of method will be prominent in my literature survey. Below is a draft outline:

Draft literature review outline

Cultural Work

  • Policy context – clusters, the problem of disconnect between policy and workers (Oakley, Pratt)
  • Labour and precarity (Hesmondalgh, Banks, Gill, Ross) – nature of work and labour in the creative industries, reputation, sociality, expertise
  • Creative industries and digital (Gregg, Crawford (circuits of labour)) – digital labour too (Ardvisson etc). Also challenging digital discourses in policy


  • Sociality of the creative industries, expertise and reputation (Kong, McRobbie, Banks, Comunian).
  • Network sociality (Castells, Wellman) – what networks look like, how they operate, theories and approaches
  • Theorising creative industries networks – Social Network Markets, Bourdieusian approaches (field), pragmatic approaches by Bilton

Social Media

  • Social media and connectivity – Baym, boyd, Turkle, etc
  • Social media and performativity – Rui and Stefanone, Goffman and Butler inspired approaches, performing expertise
  • Social media methods – current and potential new methods

I work better when I have a list in my head; the above could well change but at least I now have a basis to work from.

Cultural intermediaries

One thing I haven’t mentioned so far are cultural intermediaries (my supervisor is involved in an important project on this at the moment). While I won’t be looking at them specifically, it’s crucial for me to acknowledge this area of work because of the potentially valuable insights it can offer into the workings of the creative industries. For example, Calvin Taylor’s (2013) cultural-political economy perspective in looking at cultural intermediation provides a nuanced understanding of the nature of cultural intermediation and its role in the creative economy. Taylor’s points about the ‘associationalist economy’ and ‘value based on association’ are important too and provide a starting point for further work in looking more closely at the intermediary agents themselves and the nature of their networks and associations.


Goffman’s approach is of interest to me because of it’s usage already in some work on Twitter, such as by Murthy and Rui & Stefanone, which I have talked about in a previous post. The idea of people being actively aware of their audience when presenting themselves could indeed be applied to social media usage, and it has been. Of course Goffman’s dramaturgical framework is highly dependent on the presence of two or more people and the instantaneous interaction taking place at that moment, and social media doesn’t really function in this way. For this reason, sticking faithfully to this approach will not help but I do believe that there are elements which can be of value, particularly in relation to awareness of the audience and also maintaining “definitions of the situation”. In social media terms this could include fashioning a coherent and professional profile on Twitter and making sure you don’t tweet anything which contradicts what you say about yourself (both onliine and offline).

Next I’m going to look further into Bourdieusian approaches to theorising the creative industries, and unpick why they have been used.

About Karen Patel

PhD candidate in social media and cultural work at Birmingham City University.
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