As a researcher considering your next project you might well be expected to ask: what are my most important research questions and what methods do I have have in my armoury for gathering valid data?
Social researchers, for instance, might be interested in questions about social life, social structures, social interactions and elements of societal relations.
They might also be interested in statistical data such as how many people do certain kinds of things by themselves or together, and perhaps consider conducting a survey.
Digital sensors, with increased availability and inconspicuousness, could add new means and metrologies for collecting data. The question for the research designer though is how and why should I apply this methodological tool in my proposal?
… which is exactly the questions our forthcoming short course ‘Using Sensors in Social Research’ on 4/5 APRIL 2018 is designed to provide answers for, and so help jump-start and enrich your future research designs.
Using sensors in social research will mix short presentations, interactive hands-on and exploratory sessions, group work and discussions for participants to obtain good understanding of the technologies and operating processes required for effective inclusion and management of this method.
It will also enable researchers to ask ‘how’ and ‘if’ sensors could be used in their own research, and how to address the ethical, consent, data security, confidentiality and other issues involved. Participants will receive a certificate of attendance of this NCRM methods course.
The lessons learned and inside knowledge from HomeSense fieldwork in a number of households, will also be presented, explaining and demonstrating the analytic tools and techniques required for visualising, interpreting and understanding human activities based largely on sensor-generated data.
Six months into the HomeSense project, Professor Nigel Gilbert outlined the “interesting ethics issues” then needing to be answered before the required data collection could responsibly get underway in participants’ homes.
Kicking off the first morning of the three day event (as one of eight scheduled parallel themed discussions) will be presentations and demonstrations of the HomeSense project — to be convened by University of Surrey’s Dr Kristrún Gunnarsdóttir and Professor Nigel Gilbert.
The Sensors in social research session on Tuesday 3 July, at 10:00 to 12:30 will report progress and findings of the HomeSense sensor-based study of social life and potentially sensitive settings.
The paper discussed, as a case study, data analysis of one testbed home in the early stages of the fieldwork, and dealt with finding meaning in sensor generated data and proposed methods for comparing data generated by sensors with self-reported time-use data generated by participants.
Since one of the implications of using sensors for social research is that, in due course, activities could be recognised automatically, it also proposed a method for modelling a range of activities recorded by sensors.
While the same approach was being applied in an extended version of the study with data from more households added to the mix, publication of the paper in the Proceedings of ICFNDS’17 provided an opportunity for some of its authors – Jie Jiang, Riccardo Pozza, Kristrún Gunnarsdóttir – to sit down and discuss the approach being taken by the HomeSense project.
That extension of the study to three households was also discussed by the team and is available here for download. Using Sensors to Study Home Activities (authors’ copy, freely available for fair use) is the latest HomeSense paper and has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Sensors and Actuator Networks.
On 7 & 8 September, CRESS Research Fellow in Computational Social Science Dr Jie Jiang will be attending a Joint UK/Japan Workshop on ‘Acceptability and Value of IoT in the Home’ at the British Embassy Tokyo, at which she’ll present a paper titled ‘Using IoT to study life at home’, sharing the lessons learned from designing, implementing and practising a sensor-based research strategy for the Homesense project.
Supported by funding from FCO, EPSRC and the PETRAS Internet of Things Research Hub, the workshop includes presentations intended to illuminate the challenges and provide insights into the acceptability and value of IoT in the context of ‘the home’.
Homesense is a pilot study developing methods for use of digital sensors in social research. The project is a collaboration between the Centre for Research in Social Simulation (CRESS) and the 5G Innovation Centre.
The INSIGHTS: bringing together sensor technology and social research workshop on 20 and 21 June 2016 brought together a small group of researchers, practitioners and visionaries to discuss the latest developments in the use of sensors for smarter homes, health and lifestyle, how to assess these inventions and how to adapt the use of sensors for social research and adjacent disciplines.