The role of online social media in enhancing volunteer engagement.

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The role of online social media in enhancing volunteer engagement.
A case study on the use of online social media to support the campaign for Next
Generation Access broadband services to rural communities in the Eden Valley in
Cumbria; both a Big Society Vanguard area and Broadband Delivery UK Pilot.

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The role of online social media in enhancing volunteer engagement.

  1. 1. Kingston University London “Social media can’t provide what social change has always required. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo.” Malcolm Gladwell Date: 6th January 2012 Supervisor: Kent Springdal Author: Helen Jeffrey Student ID: K0852634 Word count: 19,997 This work is copyrighted to the author. The role of online social media in enhancing volunteer engagement. A case study on the use of online social media to support the campaign for Next Generation Access broadband services to rural communities in the Eden Valley in Cumbria; both a Big Society Vanguard area and Broadband Delivery UK Pilot.
  2. 2. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 1 of 175 Abstract The UK government have stated that the UK should have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015. There are areas of the UK, rural, remote and sparsely populated, where broadband is currently poor, unreliable or non- existent. The government have allocated £530 million to help achieve this aim. Four rural ‘superfast pilot’ projects have been set-up to explore how to effectively deliver broadband into rural areas where it may not be commercially viable. Cumbria is one of the pilot areas. The Eden Valley in Cumbria is also a Big Society Vanguard area; a test-bed for increased power and responsibility being held locally within communities. To further the campaign for improved rural broadband in Cumbria a community website, broadbandcumbria.com, was set up in December 2010 providing online social media tools to help local communities come together and develop their plans for improving local broadband. This study explores the role of online social media in enhancing volunteer engagement using a case study approach focusing on the broadbandcumbria.com online community. This is a relatively new research area. A broad, deep set of data from different sources was collected and used to examine in detail the activity, behaviour, opinions, perception and experiences of members of the online community and users of the website. The literature, whilst providing a number of related themes and frameworks, did not provide a prescriptive theoretical model to replicate, but instead gave a valuable sense of direction for the research. The online community show many positive predictors for online engagement and are highly participatory offline. They use social media and communicate widely online. The perception of the community is that the website has had a positive impact on the campaign for broadband in the Eden Valley, and individuals feel that the website has enhanced the campaign. It is recommended that additional case studies exploring similar online communities would be useful in helping to develop models that are more generalisable.
  3. 3. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 2 of 175 Acknowledgements I would like to take this opportunity to thank: • My family and friends for their patience and support over the last year. • My supervisor Kent Springdal who has been supportive throughout my project. • The people who gave up their time to be interviewed, and those who took the time to complete the questionnaire. • Louis Mosley for supporting my research project and allowing access to archival data. • Mike Kiely for his vision. • The community campaigning for rural broadband, particularly those of the Eden Valley, who have always been warm, welcoming, and inspirational.
  4. 4. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 3 of 175 Table of Contents Table of Contents 3 1 Introduction 6 2 Context 7 2.1 What is the story so far? .......................................................................................... 7 2.2 Commercial/Technological Context ......................................................................... 9 2.3 The Changing Relationship Between Citizen and State ........................................... 9 2.4 Broadband Cumbria Website..................................................................................11 2.5 Summary: So what is the problem? ........................................................................12 3 Literature Review 14 3.1 Overview ................................................................................................................14 3.2 Volunteer Engagement ...........................................................................................15 3.3 How is Volunteer Engagement measured?.............................................................16 3.4 What is Engagement? ............................................................................................20 3.5 Online Social Media................................................................................................21 3.6 What are Online Social Media?...............................................................................22 3.7 How is the impact of online social media evaluated? ..............................................25 3.8 Who uses online social media?...............................................................................28 3.9 Online social media and volunteer engagement......................................................30 3.10 Cumbria and the Eden Valley ...............................................................................32 3.11 Evaluation and Summary......................................................................................35 4 Aims and Research Questions 40 4.1 Overview ................................................................................................................40 4.2 Research Objective ................................................................................................41 4.3 Research Questions ...............................................................................................41 5 Research Design Methodology 43 5.1 Overview ................................................................................................................43 5.2 Research Philosophy..............................................................................................43 5.3 Research Approach................................................................................................44 5.4 Research Strategy..................................................................................................45 5.5 Research Paradigm................................................................................................45 5.6 Data Collection Methods.........................................................................................46 Archival Data ................................................................................................................46 Small-scale Questionnaire............................................................................................47
  5. 5. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 4 of 175 Interviews .....................................................................................................................49 5.7 Ethical/Privacy Considerations................................................................................50 5.8 Limitations ..............................................................................................................50 5.9 Summary ................................................................................................................52 6 Results 53 6.1 Archival Data ..........................................................................................................54 6.2 Small-Scale Questionnaire Data.............................................................................62 6.3 Interview Data.........................................................................................................67 6.4 Summary ................................................................................................................77 7 Discussion 78 8 Conclusions 87 9 Bibliography and References 89 Appendices Appendix A Maps Appendix B The Eden Declaration Appendix C Google Analytics Data Appendix D Wordpress Data Appendix E Small-Scale Online Questionnairre Questions Appendix F Small-Scale Online Questionnairre Results Appendix G Semi-Structured Interviews Proforma Appendix H Semi-Structured Interviews Transcripts List of Figures Figure 2-1 Eden Valley In Context ...........................................................................8 Figure 2-2 Old Paradigm .......................................................................................10 Figure 2-3 New Paradigm......................................................................................10 Figure 2-4 A conceptualisation of data as a bridge between communities and local government. ..........................................................................................................11 Figure 2-5 Broadband Cumbria Website Homepage..............................................12 Figure 3-1 Project keywords graphic produced using www.wordle.com.................14 Figure 3-2 A summary of some of the key developments and drivers affecting participation ...........................................................................................................16 Figure 3-3 A Cultural Map, Source: Inglehart (2005)..............................................17 Figure 3-4 Ladder of Participation..........................................................................20 Figure 3-5 The Conversation Prism .......................................................................23 Figure 3-6 Classification of Social Media by social presence/media richness and self-presentation/self-disclosure ............................................................................24 Figure 3-7 The Rule of Participation Inequality ......................................................25 Figure 3-8 How good would you say your organisation is at measuring return on investment (ROI) from social media activity? .........................................................26 Figure 3-9 ‘Social Technographics’ typography .....................................................27 Figure 3-10 Online Community Life Cycle..............................................................28
  6. 6. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 5 of 175 Figure 3-11 Online Behaviour of EU Countries ......................................................29 Figure 3-12 Social Influence: reach vs affinity........................................................31 Figure 3-13 Citizen-led Local Online Ecosystem Overview: High level model........32 Figure 3-14 Cumbrian websites by Type................................................................34 Figure 3-15 Cumbrian websites by Campaign .......................................................34 Figure 3-16 A conceptualisation of the individual as an engaged actor in different contexts.................................................................................................................35 Figure 3-17 Ingleheart’s Cultural Mapping Overlaid on the European Commission’s Internet Activity by Country Data............................................................................38 Figure 4-1 Conceptual mapping of the use of online social media in terms of levels of volunteer engagement .......................................................................................42 Figure 5-1 A conceptualisation of the Pragmatist approach ...................................43 Figure 5-2 A conceptualisation of the Research Approach.....................................45 Figure 5-3 A conceptualisation of the Data Collection Sources..............................46 Figure 6-1 Visits per month Source: Google Analytics ...........................................55 Figure 6-2 Analysis of Sources of Visits Source: Google Analytics Data................56 Figure 6-3 Twitter Account Page Source: Twitter.com ...........................................57 Figure 6-4 Facebook Account Page Source: Facebook.com .................................58 Figure 6-5 Facebook Insights ................................................................................58 Figure 6-6 Activity analysis ....................................................................................59 Figure 6-7 Activity analysis by type........................................................................60 Figure 6-8 Blog Posts per Member ........................................................................61 Figure 6-9 Blog Comments per Member................................................................61 Figure 6-10 Word-cloud representation of all blog comments ................................62 Figure 6-11 Reach: Number of people communicated with online .........................65 Figure 6-12 A example of the transcript analysis process ......................................68 Figure 6-13 Word-cloud frequency representations of the interview transcripts .....69 Figure 7-1 Conceptual mapping of the use of online social media in terms of levels of volunteer engagement, including the broadbandcumbria.com website ..............84 List of Tables Table 3.1 Individual, Social and Political Participation............................................15 Table 3.2 Levels of civic engagement....................................................................18 Table 3.3 Typical participants in activities..............................................................19 Table 3.4 Three dimensions of psychological empowerment.................................21 Table 3.5 Categories of Content and Online Behaviour .........................................33 Table 3.6 Summary of Participation as explored in this literature review................36 Table 6.1 Results for Individual, Social and Political Participation..........................64 Table 6.2 Interview Subjects Summary..................................................................67 Table 6.3 Selected responses to interview questions.............................................70 Table 6.4 Selection of unexpected and strongly felt interview extracts...................75
  7. 7. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 6 of 175 1 Introduction Towards the end of 2010 in the USA a public debate ignited in the media between Malcolm Gladwell and Clay Shirky on the potential for social media to affect social change (Gladwell 2010, Shirky 2011). This project proposal is a direct result of that debate. Gladwell (2010) disputes the suggestion that “with Facebook and Twitter and the like, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coordinate, and give voice to their concerns” and concludes that the ‘weak’ ties of online social networks are unlikely to support change that has any significant impact. Although this project proposal does not explore the overthrow of governments and authoritarian regimes, but instead focuses on a small rural area of the UK, in many ways the social, political, and technological outcomes of the struggle for rural broadband are quietly revolutionary. The issues are still playing out, the story is ongoing: if online social media are playing a part, how significant is it? “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Niccolo Machiavelli
  8. 8. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 7 of 175 2 Context 2.1 What is the story so far? The Eden Valley in rural Cumbria is both a Vanguard area for the Big Society (announced 19 July 2010) and in one of the original four Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) rural Broadband Pilot areas (announced 20 October 2010). As such there are a number of interested and involved parties with different agendas to be considered. Figure 2-1 is an attempt to summarise the context; many eyes are focused on the Eden Valley. A map showing the location of Cumbria and the Eden Valley is included in Appendix A. The Big Society Vanguard areas are an initiative of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and part of the government’s drive to support localism. BDUK is a department within the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), created to deliver the government’s broadband strategy: “Broadband is one of our top priorities. We took office earlier this year with a clear vision of what we want for Britain – we should have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015.” (Broadband Delivery UK, 2010). Both, then, are manifestations of central government. The Eden District is the only rural vanguard area and includes 31 parishes in three groups: Upper Eden, Lyvynnet Valley, and the Heart of Eden. The Eden District has a very low population density with less than 99 people per square kilometre in 2009 (ONS). Each group has a community plan that addresses local needs and priorities. The boundaries of the local districts and parishes are shown on a map in Appendix A. The Upper Eden District’s community plan (UECP)1 (Kirkby Stephen Town Council 2011) is a key element of the Big Society Vanguard focus in the Eden Valley; the approaches and energies of local communities are being taken as ‘role models’ for effective community engagement elsewhere. There is an intention to use the UECP to identify legislative blockers, planning issues, and other barriers communities face when championing their own projects. 1 http://www.kirkby-stephen.com/upper-eden-community-plan.html
  9. 9. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 8 of 175 Figure 2-1 Eden Valley In Context Similarly, the BDUK Broadband Pilot is intended to highlight and focus attention on barriers (legislative, regulatory, technical and commercial) to the provision of super- fast broadband to rural communities. Responsibility for commissioning of broadband services lies with Cumbria County Council. In terms of online social media the Broadband Cumbria community website2 is educating, supporting, and engaging local communities with the project (Cumbria Broadband Rural & Community Projects Ltd 2011). The website has provoked a vigorous debate over many options and issues. A number of local Broadband Champions have been appointed and great energy is being harnessed within communities to drive change. The Eden Declaration web-page (see Appendix B) is a testament to the commitment of the communities. 2 www.broadbandcumbria.com The UK’s Rural European Match Funding Internet Delivered Services “Final 2/5ths” Digital Agenda for Europe Hyper-connected applications FFTH Council of Europe Hyper-connected Cumbria County Council communities research Hub co-ordinators Eden District Council Parish Councils EDEN VALLEY D C M S Big Society Digital Britain BDUK Broadband Pilot Race Online Big Society Bank Big Society Vanguard BIS UK Online Big Society Network Britain’s Superfast Communities BDUK Broadband Future NESTA Participatory & Broadband Budgeting Champions Rural Broadband Pilots OpenData OFCOM Telecomms Companies D C L G APPGs EURIM (ICT) & DeAct Big Society Vanguard Areas Independent & New Build Installers Barrier Busting Localism Digital Scotland / Digital Wales Community Installations VOA Grassroots activists for NGA/FTTH INCA BSG Nominet Trust JON ISPA
  10. 10. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 9 of 175 The key question as to whether it is possible to transform community engagement, knowledge, and commitment into concrete technical and budgetary decisions remains to be answered. In the face of cuts to budgets and services, budget-holders’ attention is turning to more engagement with citizens in terms of the tough decisions to be made, as well as increasing delivery of services over the internet. As defined by Bowers and Blunt (2010), the BDUK Pilot project can be considered an example of ‘participatory budgeting’. Also, according to Bowers and Blunt (2010), “local authorities in some places have already launched e-participatory budgeting processes,” and several examples are given (Bristol, Redbridge, Croydon). 2.2 Commercial/Technological Context Anecdotally the UK telecoms industry can be perceived as ‘corrupt’, or at the very least beset by vested interests, with the regulator Ofcom often described as too close to the existing big players to be effective. The anxiety articulated online by some members of the local Eden communities, and others, suggests a concern that ‘big business’ will cash in on the Pilot projects, as a loss-leader for the £530m potentially available (and possible European match finding), and they will end up with a less than optimal technical solution. The wider implications of decisions made by the Pilot projects for the UK as a whole are significant. BDUK (2010) have committed to providing an “overall strategic steer” and to seeking “the most efficient way to ensure public or community investment is spent on solutions that are future proofed and which are able to connect to national infrastructure”. There is also a powerful opportunity to allow communities to push demand for new products, and to put pressure on suppliers to provide new solutions that match the communities’ ambitions for superfast broadband, upgradability, and extendibility. 2.3 The Changing Relationship Between Citizen and State With the advent of the ‘Big Society’ the relationship between citizen and state is evolving. Empowerment of local government and parish councils, direct engagement with communities and community solutions are aspects of this evolution. This is conceptualised in a simple way in Figure 2-2 and Figure 2-3.
  11. 11. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 10 of 175 Figure 2-2 Old Paradigm In this model, Parish Councils are marginalised, without legal or financial power. Central Government and Local Authorities are large. Central Government drives much of the agenda for Local Authorities. The community is disengaged from all levels of government. Figure 2-3 New Paradigm Local Authorities Central Government Parish Councils NGOs & Pressure Groups Community Community Local Government Central Government
  12. 12. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 11 of 175 In the new model Local Government, including Parish Councils, is empowered. Central Government plays a reduced role with less ‘micro-managing’. Communities are directly connected to all levels of government and play a larger part in shaping services. Although the new paradigm seems much simpler, the old cultures and norms of working, however maligned, were well established. There is now a need to build trust, confidence, and new methods of working together. This is particularly an issue where budget-holders are being encouraged to devolve decision making to communities and put trust in volunteers. Alongside these shifts, there is growing confidence in the creative use of data and a widening understanding of the potential value of data, conceptualised in Figure 2-4. The Government’s Open Data policy is opening up new sources of data for analysis. Recently announced by the Cabinet Office (2011), the new Public Data Corporation3 is intended to help drive innovation. The use of Mapping/GIS is growing. Tools for using data are becoming easier to use and more widespread. Data is no longer restricted to cumbersome, expensive, IT developments; agile methodologies are gaining acceptance. Figure 2-4 A conceptualisation of data as a bridge between communities and local government. 2.4 Broadband Cumbria Website The main focus of online social media in terms of engaging the rural communities of Cumbria in the rural broadband issue is the ‘Broadband Cumbria’ website4 (Cumbria Broadband Rural & Community Projects Ltd 2011), with an associated 3 http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/news/public-data-corporation-free-public-data- and-drive-innovation 4 www.broadbandcumbria.com Communities Local Government Energy, manpower, ideas Data giving Under pressure No legitimacy to make decisions confidence and Responsible for decisions Able to gather data bridging the gap Comfortable using data Want to see progress Need to monitor progress
  13. 13. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 12 of 175 Facebook page5 and twitter account (@bbcumbria) used in support: A screen print of the homepage is given in Figure 2-5. The website was built using the popular WordPress application (free) and the BuddyPress plug-in (also free) and provides a number of social media facilities including blogging, commenting, membership, forums/groups, and micro-sites. Figure 2-5 Broadband Cumbria Website Homepage Source: Cumbria Broadband Rural & Community Projects Ltd (2011) The website also hosts the ‘Eden Declaration’ (see Appendix B), and other crowd- sourced content, such as a broadband glossary, help notes, and map information. 2.5 Summary: So what is the problem? Considering the complex context described in previous sections, some questions 5 http://www.facebook.com/BroadbandCumbria
  14. 14. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 13 of 175 that arise are: to what can extent online social media be effective in supporting change, particularly in an area that has limited internet connectivity? Is the potentially strong social cohesiveness of smaller rural communities contributing to making online social media more effective? Is the combination of communities of interest and geographical communities a potent one? Alternatively, do the existing connections within a rural community render the online community more or less redundant? There is a certain irony in attempting to use online social media in an area where broadband connections are poor or non-existent. The issues that are being raised involve complex technical concepts, but there is much to be gained for individuals, communities, and businesses. What can be learned from Eden Valley that could be applied in other rural communities and what does success look like? In terms of online social media enhancing volunteer engagement, what actions have been taken following exposure to social media, both online and offline? The digital world is recognised as significant in the modern economic environment, accounting for almost £1 in every £10 produced by the British economy (Digital Britain, 2009), but almost one third of the UK has poor or non-existing internet connectivity (BDUK, 2010). This is particularly the case in rural areas where investment costs are relatively high and the number of customers low. If online social media can be used effectively to stimulate communities to drive progress there is potentially much to be gained.
  15. 15. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 14 of 175 3 Literature Review 3.1 Overview In this nascent and evolving area, the literature review provides a broad framework of understanding that informs the research design and methodology, extending and deepening the themes and issues identified during the project proposal phase. As this is an exploratory research topic, not explanatory one, the literature provides general directions for development, rather than prescriptive approaches. The literature review has the following objectives: • To discover how the main topics, online social media and volunteer engagement, have been approached by previous researchers and subject experts. • To understand the accepted rationales for assessing and measuring the effectiveness of online social media and volunteer engagement. • To identify a number of theoretical models and frameworks that may apply or could be adapted. • To identify and include the most up-to-date work. A graphic representation of the main keywords identified are presented in Figure 3- 1. Figure 3-1 Project keywords graphic produced using www.wordle.com “The test of real literature is that it will bear repetition. We read over the same pages again and again, and always with fresh delight“ Samuel McChord Crothers
  16. 16. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 15 of 175 The literature review is presented in the following sections: • Volunteer Engagement • How is Volunteer Engagement measured? • What is Engagement? • Online Social Media • What are Online Social Media? • How is the impact of online social media evaluated? • Who uses online social media? • Online social media and volunteer engagement • Cumbria and the Eden Valley 3.2 Volunteer Engagement In order to examine the meaning of the concept of ‘Volunteer engagement’, it seems logical to explore how it has been researched in the past. Volunteer engagement can be considered an indicator of ‘citizen participation’, so this is a useful place to start. A comprehensive study of literature related to participation has been carried out by Brodie et al (2009) as “part of a major national research project called ‘Pathways through Participation: What creates and sustains active citizenship?’ led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and Involve.” The review discusses the difficulties inherent in working with the wide range, or continuum, of varieties of participation and suggests distilling them into three generic categories: Individual, Social and Political, as summarised in Table 3.1. Table 3.1 Individual, Social and Political Participation Source: Adapted from Brodie et al (2009) Individual Participation Social Participation Political Participation Description The choices and actions that individuals make as part of their daily life. The collective activities that individuals may be involved in as part of their everyday lives. The engagement of individuals with the various structures and institutions of democracy. Includes ‘Everyday politics’ ‘Associational life’, collective action, civil, horizontal or community participation. Political, civic, or vertical participation and/or participatory governance. Examples Choosing fair-trade goods; boycotting specific products; using ‘green energy’; donating money to charities; and signing petitions. Being a member of a community group, a tenants’ association or a trade union; supporting the local hospice by volunteering; and running a study group on behalf of a faith organisation. Voting in local or national elections; being a councillor; and taking part in government (or associated) consultations.
  17. 17. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 16 of 175 Brodie et al. (2009) conclude that “participation has a rich history in political and social thought, and continues to be a preoccupation of governments, policy makers, practitioners, academics and interested individuals across the world,” and present a summary of some of the key developments and drivers affecting participation as shown in Figure 3-2. Figure 3-2 A summary of some of the key developments and drivers affecting participation Source: Brodie et al. (2009) 3.3 How is Volunteer Engagement measured? Volunteer engagement could also be considered as a measure of social capital. Halpern’s (2005) multi-national analysis of trends in social capital from the mid 1990s, drawing in part on the work of Putnam and Inglehart, identifies two key stories. The first is the decline of many traditional forms of social capital such as engagement with religious and political organisations, and a rise in ‘memberships’ that do not include social interactions, together with an increase in individualism
  18. 18. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 17 of 175 and an expansion of weak social ties, or networks. Halpern suggests that “this represents a shift from the ‘thick-trust’ of the traditional community to the ‘thin’ but powerful trust of modern society”. The second story identified by Halpern (2005) is that in the Anglo-Saxon nations (USA, UK, Australia) there had been a generalised rise in individualism and social disengagement that, in the case of the USA, is potentially explained by work intensification, suburbanisation, and mass media (television and electronic entertainment). Inglehart (2005) presents a cultural map based not on geographical proximity, but on shared values and attitudes (see Figure 3-3), drawing on the results of the World Values Survey. Inglehart suggest that as societies move from a position of Survival to Self-expression, from Industrial to Post-industrial, there is a related shift from Materialist to Post-materialist values and that “societies that rank high on self- expression values also tend to rank high on interpersonal trust”. Britain is grouped culturally with the USA, rather than with its geographically closer European neighbours. Figure 3-3 A Cultural Map, Source: Inglehart (2005)
  19. 19. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 18 of 175 A recent study by the NCVO (2011) into UK participation draws together a wide range of figures from many sources and gives a useful overview of trends in participation in the UK, including volunteering. The report compares levels of ‘formal’ volunteering in 1981 and 2008 and concludes they are broadly unchanged. The measures are in terms of percentage of individuals volunteering formally through groups and organisations at least once a year (falling from 44% to 41%) and household giving as a percentage of total household spending (0.4%). The Citizen Survey (CLG, 2010) (a household survey in England and Wales involving 16,140 face-to-face interviews) defines informal volunteering as “giving unpaid help as an individual to people who are not relatives”. In 2009-10 54% of people in England volunteered informally at least once in the previous year. This represents a drop from 64% in 2001. The Citizen Survey (CLG, 2010) also reports that levels of involvement in civic participation are lower at 34% (38% in 2001) and involvement in civic consultation was also lower at 18% (between 20 and 21% previously). Levels of civic activism remain static at 10%. The definitions of levels of civic engagement are summarised in Table 3.2. Table 3.2 Levels of civic engagement Source: Adapted from CLG ( 2010) Civic Engagement Civic participation: wider forms of engagement in democratic processes, such as contacting an elected representative, taking part in a public demonstration or protest, or signing a petition. Civic consultation: active engagement in consultation about local services or issues such as attending a consultation group or completing a questionnaire about these services. Civic activism: involvement either in direct decision-making about local services or issues, or in the actual provision of these services by taking on a role such as a local councillor, school governor or magistrate. The Citizen Survey represents a professional and well resourced data collection process, but it could be argued that, as a measure of engagement, volunteering ‘at least once a year’ is relatively crude.
  20. 20. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 19 of 175 Brodie et al. (2009) also examine in detail the available evidence regarding the ‘typical’ participant/volunteer in relation to a number of different activities, summarised in Table 3.3, based on indicators including age, socio-economic status, education and life-stage. The study comments on the ‘snapshot’ nature of the existing data and the lack of work focusing on the holistic view of an individual’s progress through different stages and levels of participation. Table 3.3 Typical participants in activities Source: Adapted from Brodie et al. (2009) The voter/traditional public participant White, aged 65 and above, middle-class, professional higher earners, both men and women. Local-level public participant (for example, attending consultation groups/meetings, completing questionnaire about issues such as town planning, health, transport or the environment) The typical participants vary according to activity, but generally are more likely to be white, older, better educated, richer, middle- class males. Those living in rural areas have been identified as more likely to engage in civic consultation exercises. The online public participant Well-educated, and from a marginally higher social grade and both male or female. The formal volunteer (for example, the prison visitor, the conservation volunteer, the charity shop volunteer, the school governor, the local magistrate) Women, of higher social grades, in managerial positions, degree-educated, and middle-aged. There are, however, differences across different types of formal volunteering. Figure 3-4 is a representation of the ‘ladder of participation’ typology suggested by Arnstein (1969) who defines eight levels of engagement in the civic context, with only levels six to eight representing true citizen empowerment.
  21. 21. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 20 of 175 Figure 3-4 Ladder of Participation Source: Arnstein (1969) 3.4 What is Engagement? Engagement can also be examined from the perspectives of ‘employee engagement’. It is interesting to consider what might be applicable to volunteer engagement from the work done from this perspective, particularly given the recent thinking that volunteer work can enhance employment and career prospects. A number of factors influence employee engagement (Armstrong, 2008), and these can be considered as falling into two areas, the rational and the emotional. Intrinsic motivation and engagement is enhanced by interesting or challenging work, autonomy, responsibility, the opportunity to develop skills and abilities, and access to required resources. Armstrong (2008) also cites the work of Robinson and the Institute of Employment Studies when suggesting an engaged employee displays the attributes summarised below: • Has a positive attitude to the job • Identifies with the organisation • Actively works towards improvements
  22. 22. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 21 of 175 • Shows respect for and co-operation with others • Can be relied upon and goes beyond expectations • Sees the bigger picture • Keeps up to date • Seeks opportunities to improve organisational performance Empowerment of the individual, or psychological empowerment, is considered by Leung (2009) in his study of the user-generated content online and civic engagement offline. Leung identifies three dimensions of psychological empowerment as potential indicators of levels of user-generated content online, summarised in Table 3.4. Considering ‘engagement’ in terms of participation, Brodie et al (2011) in their ‘Pathways to Participation’ final report conclude that all types of participation have a number of common features; voluntary, about action, collective or connected, and purposeful. Table 3.4 Three dimensions of psychological empowerment Source: Based on Leung (2009) Control Self-efficacy Competence Perceived intrapersonal capacity to lead and influence social and political systems Perception of skills. Knowledge about the availability of resources needed to achieve goals, development of decision- making skills. Role-mastery. Includes participation in activities and community organisations. 3.5 Online Social Media As illustrated in Figure 3-5, the ‘conversation prism’ by Soulis and Thomas (2008), online social media can been seen to comprise a highly varied and complex range of software applications: “The Conversation Prism gives you a whole view of the social media universe, categorized and also organized by how people use each network.” This is the third version to be produced reflecting the rapidly evolving nature of social media.
  23. 23. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 22 of 175 3.6 What are Online Social Media? Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) consider that there is a limited understanding of what the term ‘‘Social Media’’ exactly means, and continue to provide a classification framework that defines more specific categories: collaborative projects, blogs, content communities, social networking sites, virtual game worlds, and virtual social worlds. The six types of social media are classified according to the level of self- presentation or self-disclosure, and social presence or media richness, which predicate the social media label as shown in Figure 3-6.
  24. 24. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 23 of 175 Figure 3-5 The Conversation Prism Source: Soulis and Thomas (2008)
  25. 25. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 24 of 175 Figure 3-6 Classification of Social Media by social presence/media richness and self-presentation/self-disclosure Source: Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) Preece (2000) defines an online community as consisting of four elements: people, shared purpose, policies or norms, and computer systems. Chaffey and Smith (2008) acknowledge the ideas of Durlacher in that there are a number of different types of ‘virtual’ or online community, including communities related to purpose (for example buying a car), position (for example life stage), interest, and profession. Li and Bernhoff (2008) present the concept of ‘groundswell’ as “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations”. Kurpius, Metzgar and Rowley (2010), in their examination of 10 case studies relating to commercial hyperlocal media ventures in the USA, describe online hyperlocal media operations as those that “focus on specific issues or communities, but they vary widely in the type and reliability of funding that support their operations; the training, expertise, and size of their staffs; and their ability to attract an audience”. On his blog Bradley (2011) builds on his analysis of 200 implementations of social media in the commercial environment and concludes that online social media implementations must include ‘mass-collaboration’ and ‘purpose’, as well as his six original core principles: participation, collective, transparency, independence, persistence and emergence.
  26. 26. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 25 of 175 The concept of ‘crowdsourcing’ is explored by Brabham (2008) who examines a number of case studies and concludes that crowdsourcing “is a model capable of aggregating talent, leveraging ingenuity while reducing the costs and time formerly needed to solve problems,” and “crowdsourcing is enabled only through the technology of the web, which is a creative mode of user interactivity, not merely a medium between messages and people”. 3.7 How is the impact of online social media evaluated? From the commercial perspective Chaffy and Smith (2008) consider the growth and impact of online social networks on media consumption as the most dramatic trend. The challenge of encouraging online community participation is acknowledged. Neilsen (2006) proposed a ‘90-9-1 rule of participation inequality’ (see Figure 3-7). This rule predicts that 90% of a community simply observe, 9% contribute periodically, and 1% create most of the contributions. Figure 3-7 The Rule of Participation Inequality Source: Neilsen (2006) Again from the commercial perspective, based on work done by Econsultancy (2010), it seems that only 15% of companies rate their measure of return on investment in social media as good or excellent, as shown in Figure 3-8.
  27. 27. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 26 of 175 Figure 3-8 How good would you say your organisation is at measuring return on investment (ROI) from social media activity? Source: Econsultancy (2010) Figure 3-9 shows Bernhoff’s (2010) updated version of the ‘Social Technographics’ typography that was developed originally with Li. This is a commercial profiling tool that reflects the fact that “people participate in multiple behaviours, and not everyone at a higher level on the ladder actually does everything in the lower rungs”. Interestingly the ‘conversationalists’ classification is determined by frequency of participation as well as by type of behaviour.
  28. 28. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 27 of 175 Figure 3-9 ‘Social Technographics’ typography Source: Bernhoff (2010) Iriberri & Gondy (2009) use the framework of a life-cycle to study the distinctive stages of an online community. The study found that measures of success commonly used are the volume of members’ contributions and the quality of the relationships among members. The authors present the online community as an evolving entity progressing through distinctive stages, with success strategies dependant on the developmental stage as well as the goals of the specific community, as illustrated in Figure 3-10. The benefits of an integrated approach are seen as lively and sustainable online communities with members participating willingly and contributing actively.
  29. 29. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 28 of 175 Figure 3-10 Online Community Life Cycle Source: Iriberri & Gondy (2009) 3.8 Who uses online social media? Data presented by the European Commission (2011) shown in Figure 3-11 compares the online behaviour of the population of different EU countries. The UK is shown to have a population where almost 80% are ‘regular’ internet users, with over 30% of the population uploading self-created content to be shared. The UK scored higher than the average of the 27 EU countries in both respects.
  30. 30. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 29 of 175 Figure 3-11 Online Behaviour of EU Countries Source: European Commission (2011)
  31. 31. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 30 of 175 Correa, Hinsley & Gil de Zuniga (2010) consider personality traits as critical factors impacting an individual’s engagement with user-generated online media. Using a large scale survey of adults in the United States to explore a number of hypotheses, the study concluded that extraversion and openness to new experiences were positively related to social media use, whereas emotional stability was a negative predictor. The results differed by gender and age; extravert men and women were likely to be more frequent users, but only men with greater emotional instability were likely to be frequent users. Extroversion was shown to be of greater importance amongst the young adults, with openness to new experiences being an important predictor among the mature segment. In their longitudinal study of the town of Blacksburg, USA Kavanaugh et al (2005) found extraversion and age (35-64 years), as well as education, were predictors of participation in and the positive impact of communication technology, regardless of localism or geographic community. The study uses a social participation path model to analyse the effects of variables and concludes that the following mediating variables pertain to social aspects of community life and increase overall involvement: Collective efficacy (community problem solving), Membership, Belonging, and Activism (as in being actively involved). The concept of ‘Social Roles’ in online communities was investigated by Gleave, Welser, Lento & Smith (2009) who looked specifically at Usenet and Wikipedia and used egocentric network analysis to identify three key social roles: ‘answer person’, ‘discussion person’ and ‘discussion catalyst’. They argue that key people enacting roles affect the productivity and longevity of a group, and postulate that a deeper understanding of social roles online is key to moving towards a ‘PeopleRank’ approach to qualifying authors of content. 3.9 Online social media and volunteer engagement In terms of citizen engagement Gibson (2010), in his examination of the use of social media in local government, states that “social media are all about communities. They connect people together, help them share who they are, encourage conversation and build trust. They are the most powerful tool available today for building a sense of belonging and collaboration in a virtual, or local, area.”
  32. 32. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 31 of 175 Gibson acknowledges the challenges of measuring the impact of social media and the role that softer measures such as perception might play. Brodie et al. (2009) conclude that the ability of individuals to bypass existing organisational structures is “likely to lead to the creation of a greater number of looser, less formal groups and networks” whilst acknowledging the issues around digital exclusion. On his blog Maggi (2009) discusses the importance of finding the ‘influencers’ within a community. He considers the relative merits of ‘reach’ and ‘affinity’. Reach represents a large number of relatively weak interpersonal ties, whilst affinity represents a network with stronger interpersonal ties, as presented in Figure 3-12. Figure 3-12 Social Influence: reach vs affinity Source: Maggi (2009) Flouch and Harris (2010) carried out a study of 160 local websites in London: “The citizen-led local online ecosystem is becoming richer and more varied. Understanding the impacts and implications of the sites within this ecosystem requires some framework against which each one can be calibrated and understood.” They propose a typology of citizen-run neighbourhood websites, including two commercially led types. The typography includes eight different categories represented in Figure 3-13.
  33. 33. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 32 of 175 Figure 3-13 Citizen-led Local Online Ecosystem Overview: High level model Source: Flouch and Harris (2010) Based on a large-scale nation survey in the USA, Gil de Zuniga & Valenzuela (2010) explore a number of hypotheses relating to online and offline network size, the strength of ties within the networks, and levels of civic engagement (equated to voluntary civic activity). They conclude that there is a positive relationship between online and offline network size and civic engagement, that weak-tie discussion is a strong predictor of civic behaviours, and online networks provide greater exposure to weak-ties than offline networks. 3.10 Cumbria and the Eden Valley Three recent relevant studies have been carried out either including or looking specifically at Cumbria and the Eden Valley. Roberts (2011) focuses specifically on the Eden Valley in an assessment of learning from the Big Society Vanguard project. Published in August, just 12 months after the announcement of the Eden Valley as a Big Society Vanguard area, the report is based on a number of interviews with key actors and looks at a number of initiatives including Community Broadband. The report briefly refers to the broadbandcumbria.com website and the aspirations embodied in the ‘Eden
  34. 34. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 33 of 175 Declaration’ (see Appendix B). The report concludes that the Vanguard project has enabled significant or exceptional progress for a number of community led initiatives, however not in the case of broadband which is seen as ‘at an early stage’. Broadband Delivery UK (2011) reports on the lessons learnt from the Superfast Pilots; four rural pilot projects that include Cumbria. The section on community based approaches looks specifically at Cumbria and acknowledges that ‘the success of community based projects is dependent on community organisation and mobilisation’. The difficulties faced by small communities when engaging with suppliers is noted, and the suggestion is made that clustering/aggregation of communities may improve leverage. An analysis of Social Media by Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Police (2011) aims to gauge the range and level of online civic activity in Cumbria: both individual actors and websites. The research specifically identifies rural broadband as a campaign that is ‘extremely effective with respect to creating and engaging online community,’ although some lack of focus and direction is noted. The report uses a typography to identify online behaviour as shown in Table 3.5. Table 3.5 Categories of Content and Online Behaviour Source: Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Police (2011) Category of Content Intent / Behaviour Informal social I use social media in order to socialise with my friends and family – I just want to keep in touch with people. Informal civic I use social media to connect to my local community and talk about issues which I think are important to us Formal civic I use social media to make sure that the views of my community are considered by decision makers and are part of the final decision. I want to influence things. Formal democratic I want to be part of setting the agenda for my community – I want to change things. The report presents an analysis of 195 civic websites by type, as shown in Figure 3- 14.
  35. 35. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 34 of 175 Figure 3-14 Cumbrian websites by Type Source: Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Police (2011) Based on the classification used, broadbandcumbria.com would fall into the ‘Campaigns’ category; “Social media sites that are driving a specific campaign”. Looking at the analysis of campaign sites by type in Figure 3-15, it can be seen that, as a campaign topic, broadband has the largest number of sites. Figure 3-15 Cumbrian websites by Campaign Source: Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Police (2011)
  36. 36. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 35 of 175 The report notes that the local MP is active and effective online, as are local communities, however the research found “very little activity from local Councillors”. The report also surveyed a small number of active online ‘civic creators’ and found an even gender balance, highly educated, with an average age of 61. The respondents were also notably active offline within their communities, but not particularly networked between themselves. The report raises some concerns about the future of the broadband campaign websites, a ‘valuable asset’. 3.11 Evaluation and Summary The study of online social media and their effect on volunteer engagement is a nascent, evolving area, with a growing body of topical, recent, and interesting work emerging. Previous work on engagement has typically been undertaken with a focus on participation, generally representing the interests of the sponsors of the studies (central/local government, charities, etc), rather than from the perspective of the individual. Volunteers are also employees and citizens as conceptualised in Figure 3.16. The ‘Pathways Through Participation’ report (Brodie et al 2011) redresses this to some extent, but it is not primarily focussed on online engagement. Figure 3-16 A conceptualisation of the individual as an engaged actor in different contexts State Market Citizen Employee Engagement Engagement Individual Community Volunteer Engagement
  37. 37. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 36 of 175 The large-scale Citizen Survey (CLG 2010) uses a crude measure of volunteering (one a year) to indicate trends. The Ladder of Participation (Arnstein, 1969) is a widely respected model. A summary of types of citizen participation as explored in this literature review is presented in Table 2.5. The exact definition of social media is still evolving and can best be represented as it currently exists by the typographies proposed by Kaplan and Haenlein (2010), Bradley (2011), and Flouch and Harris (2010). The study of the impact of online social media is an area in flux as the nature of social media technologies is rapidly evolving. Much of the work that has been done to date relates to the commercial exploitation, or return on investment, of online social media, and the engagement of communities and individuals as customers. Other studies focus on the use of social media to support local government services and citizen engagement. Digital exclusion and the digital divide are seen as issues impacting digital engagement. Table 3.6 Summary of Participation as explored in this literature review Individual Participation Social Participation Political Participation Description The choices and actions that individuals make as part of their daily life. The collective activities that individuals may be involved in as part of their everyday lives. The engagement of individuals with the various structures and institutions of democracy. Formal / Informal Volunteering Informal; giving unpaid help as an individual to people who are not relatives. Formal; through groups and organisations. Formal; through democratic structures and institutions. Civic Engagement Civic participation: wider forms of engagement in democratic processes, such as contacting an elected representative, taking part in a public demonstration or protest, or signing a petition. Civic consultation: active engagement in consultation about local services or issues such as attending a consultation group or completing a questionnaire about these services. Civic activism: involvement either in direct decision-making about local services or issues, or in the actual provision of these services by taking on a role such as a local councillor, school governor or magistrate. Key Relationships Individual statements of the kind of society they want to live in. The associations people form between and for themselves. The relationship between individuals and the state. Category of Content Created Informal Social: Keeping in touch with friends and family. Informal Civic: Talk about issues with the community. Formal Civic, Formal Democratic: Influence/change things.
  38. 38. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 37 of 175 There is an acknowledgement that the wide range of metrics available as ‘archival data’ from internet activities can only tell part of the story. As suggested by Gibson (2010) softer, more interpretive, data is required to give a fuller picture. The UK population has a high number of regular internet users and over 30% upload self-created content to share (European Commission, 2010). It is interesting to overlay Inglehart’s Cultural Map categories onto the EU’s activity by country data to create the composite Figure 3-17. The yellow circled countries (including the UK) are Inglehart’s English Speakers or Protestant Europeans, and score highly for Secular-Rational Values and Self-Expression on Inglehart’s map. They also score higher than the EU average for regular internet use and/or uploaded self-created content to be shared.
  39. 39. Copyright © 2012 Figure 3-17 Ingleheart’s Cultural Mapping Overlaid on the European Commission’s Internet Activity by Country Participation in social activities undertaken, such as posting, commenting, sharing etc and a number of models proposed (Neilsen not generally include a time activity has defining features as identified by Brodie et al (2011). The concept of an online community life an interesting one proposed by Iriberri & Gondy (2009). The empowerment of the individual, or psychological empowerment, considered by Leung (2009) as it relates to the creation of online content, provides one framework for considering the individual as an act adoption of a social role, as investigated by Gleave, Wesler, Lento & Smith (2009) is also potentially relevant to the success of an individual in an online community. Cumbria and the Eden Valley are rural areas wit communities and engaged Broadband Delivery UK (2011) and Cumbria County Council & Cumbria Constabulary (2011). Kingston University Page 38 of 175 Ingleheart’s Cultural Mapping Overlaid on the European Commission’s Internet Activity by Country Data Participation in social media has been looked at from the perspective activities undertaken, such as posting, commenting, sharing etc and a number of models proposed (Neilsen 2006), (Bernhoff 2010). Interestingly the not generally include a time-frame, or frequency, aspect. Participation as a generic activity has defining features as identified by Brodie et al (2011). The concept of an online community life-cycle and related indicators for success is teresting one proposed by Iriberri & Gondy (2009). The empowerment of the individual, or psychological empowerment, considered by Leung (2009) as it relates to the creation of online content, provides one framework for considering the individual as an actor engaged in online social media. adoption of a social role, as investigated by Gleave, Wesler, Lento & Smith (2009) is also potentially relevant to the success of an individual in an online community. Cumbria and the Eden Valley are rural areas with active offline and online engaged individual actors as reported by Roberts (2011), Broadband Delivery UK (2011) and Cumbria County Council & Cumbria Kingston University London Ingleheart’s Cultural Mapping Overlaid on the European Data media has been looked at from the perspective of the online activities undertaken, such as posting, commenting, sharing etc and a number of ). Interestingly these models do Participation as a generic cycle and related indicators for success is The empowerment of the individual, or psychological empowerment, considered by Leung (2009) as it relates to the creation of online content, provides one framework or engaged in online social media. The adoption of a social role, as investigated by Gleave, Wesler, Lento & Smith (2009) is also potentially relevant to the success of an individual in an online community. h active offline and online as reported by Roberts (2011), Broadband Delivery UK (2011) and Cumbria County Council & Cumbria
  40. 40. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 39 of 175 The thick-trust/thin-trust concepts considered by Halpern (2005) may both apply to rural communities as they exist in the modern online social space. The question of reach and affinity explored by Maggi (2009) is a potentially interesting one to consider in this context, as is the extent that network size and weak-tie discussions act as predictors of civic behaviours, as explored by Gil de Zungia & Valenzuela (2010). The personality predictors identified by Correa, Hinsley & De Zuniga (2010) may appear more consistently in the population of rural communities than the population as a whole. Although, in this relatively new and evolving area, no prescribed, conclusive or widely accepted models have been identified, this literature review has identified a range of interesting relevant concepts and frameworks that can be used to guide and inform the exploration of the perceived efficacy of online social media in the campaign for rural broadband in the Eden Valley, Cumbria, specifically the broadbandcumbria.com website.
  41. 41. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 40 of 175 4 Aims and Research Questions 4.1 Overview Considering the complex context of the campaign for rural broadband in general, and in the Eden Valley, Cumbria specifically, several interesting questions arise. • To what can extent online social media be effective in supporting change, particularly in an area that has limited internet connectivity? • Is the potentially strong social cohesiveness of smaller rural communities contributing to making online social media more effective? • Is the combination of communities of interest and geographical communities a potent one? • Do the existing connections within a rural community render the online community more or less redundant? • The issues that are being raised involve complex technical and commercial concepts; is this a barrier to engagement? • What are seen as the benefits to be gained from improved broadband for individuals, communities, and businesses? • What can be learned from Eden Valley that could be applied to similar campaigns in other rural communities? • What does success, in terms of the use of online social media to promote volunteer engagement, look like? • What actions, both online and offline, have been taken following exposure to social media? The literature review identified a number of broad concepts and frameworks that give signposts and directions in which to explore the perceived efficacy of online social media in the campaign for rural broadband in the Eden Valley, Cumbria; specifically the broadbandcumbria.com website. These models, and the work of previous studies, can be adapted and used as a lens through which to examine this case in some depth. • Propensity to engagement; demographic, social orientation, and personality as predictors of behaviour. • Frequency and types of use of social media and the internet. • Engagement as Participation; Individual, Social and Political.
  42. 42. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 41 of 175 • Participation in terms of its identifying features; Voluntary, about action, collective or connected, and purposeful. • Social Influence, Reach and affinity; the size of social networks and the strength of interpersonal ties, both on and off-line. • The Life Cycle Stages of community websites; engagement over time. The precise research objective and related research questions that have developed from this preparatory work are outlined below. 4.2 Research Objective 1. To explore and conceptualise the use of online social media in enhancing volunteer engagement, specifically as used in the campaign for rural broadband in the Eden Valley, Cumbria. 4.3 Research Questions 1. How have online social media been implemented in the context of the broadbandcumbria.com website and to what extent they been used over time? 2. What are the perceptions of effectiveness of the use of online social media, specifically broadbandcumbria.com, in terms of volunteer engagement with the campaign for rural broadband in the Eden Valley? The literature suggests that there is no one preferred research approach; a wide range of approaches have been used in past studies. Figure 4-1 presents an emerging conceptualisation of the research questions in terms of some of the theory explored in the literature review: mapping the use of online social media in terms of levels of volunteer engagement. How might the perceived effectiveness of the use of social media in terms of engaging volunteers in the context of the Eden Valley’s fight for rural broadband look when mapped in a similar way?
  43. 43. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 42 of 175 High volunteer engagement Political participation Thick-trust, high affinity, low reach, geographic communities Medium volunteer engagement Social participation Low volunteer engagement Individual participation Thin-trust, high reach, low affinity, communities of interest 90% ‘lurkers’ Low online social media engagement 9% intermittent contributors Medium online social media engagement 1% heavy contributors High online social media engagement Figure 4-1 Conceptual mapping of the use of online social media in terms of levels of volunteer engagement
  44. 44. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 43 of 175 5 Research Design Methodology 5.1 Overview Having developed the research objective and research questions, this chapter considers the research philosophy appropriate to the research subject. The literature does not suggest one preferred research approach; a wide range of approaches have been used in past studies. Different research philosophies are considered with a view to identifying the rationale for the adoption of the case study as the research approach for the project. Data collection methods are detailed for both primary and secondary, qualitative and quantitative data. Limitations of the research methodology are also discussed. 5.2 Research Philosophy This project combines two areas of investigation that are very different in nature: • The environment of the internet and online social media is objective, impersonal, and highly measurable. • The engagement of volunteers and communities, their perception of their own response to their experience of online social media, is based in the subjective world of human actors. Having considered both the Positivist tradition and the Interpretivist approach, there are merits and benefits to both in this context. The analytic, deductive Positivist style is appropriate to the investigation of aggregated de-personalised data from the internet, such as that available from Google Analytics. The inductive, intuitive Interpretivist approach is highly appropriate for the exploration of individuals’ reflections and perceptions of their experiences. In summary the Pragmatist approach seems the ideal fit for this research project as it allows for the combination of both the Positivist and Interpretivist philosophies as conceptualised in Figure 3-1. Figure 5-1 A conceptualisation of the Pragmatist approach Positivist Interpretivist Objectivism/ Realism Pragmatism Subjectivism Deductive Inductive Analytic Creative "It is the theory that decides what can be observed." Albert Einstein
  45. 45. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 44 of 175 As the use of the Interpretivist approach to the topic is by definition subjective, the judgements made will reflect to some extent the life-experience and values of the researcher. As suggested by Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill (2009) a statement of personal values related to this study is included below. The researcher believes: • Access to the internet is, and has been, central and fundamental to their personal development; the internet enables individuals to flourish. • The commitment and energy that volunteers can bring to a project is valuable; voluntary effort can achieve extraordinary results. • The pace of technological change is rapid and increasing; individuals are generally uncomfortable with uncertainties related to the evolutionary and revolutionary effects of technological development. • It is unlikely that government can be influenced by individuals; UK politics is disempowering of the individual citizen. • Awareness of culture is important; there are barriers to communication between different UK sub-cultures that are not generally recognised and these impact negatively on progress. • There are significant issues implicit in the short-term requirement for shareholder return on investment inherent in the structure of commercial businesses. • It is the duty of both citizen and state to base decisions on the long-term, as well as the short-term, benefits to society. 5.3 Research Approach The inductive, discovery-led approach allows the ‘story’ to be told, explores issues, problems and opportunities, and the development of a narrative. The deductive, theory-led approach allows the matching of data to the theoretical model and to evaluate how well the theory applies to a ‘real-world’ application. The research approach adopted was primarily discovery-led where insights into perceptions of volunteer engagement were explored, and primarily theory-led when related to the analysis of data (primary and archival secondary data).
  46. 46. Copyright © 2012 5.4 Research Strategy The optimal, practical, research strategy archival data, as well as a small depth face-to-face semi to examine. The case study approach contemporary phenomenon within a particular conte uses varied data collection techniques triangulation to optimise the outcomes. The case study approach is consistent with the Pragmatic research philosophy, and supports the combination of terms of this project, it can be considered described by Yin (2003). 5.5 Research Paradigm A rich case study mixed scale questionnaire, and archival data, is seen as as represented in Figure 5 Figure 5-2 To explore and conceptualise the use of online social media in enhancing volunteer engagement, specifically as used in the campaign for rural broadband in the Eden Valley, Cumbria. Research Question 1: How have online social media been implemented in the context of the broadbandcumbria.com website and to what extent they been used over time? Secondary Data: •Google Analytics data: longitudinal and archival •Wordpress Data: longitudinal and archival •Facebook Fan page data: snapshot •Twitter account data: snapshot Kingston University Page 45 of 175 Research Strategy The optimal, practical, research strategy for the project is the case study, using archival data, as well as a small-scale questionnaire, and a small number of face semi-structured interviews, thus gathering a rich variety of data approach allows a rich, detailed examination of a contemporary phenomenon within a particular context (Yin 2003) uses varied data collection techniques, both qualitative and quantitative, triangulation to optimise the outcomes. The case study approach is consistent with the Pragmatic research philosophy, and the combination of discovery-led and theory-led research approaches , it can be considered a single, holistic case described by Yin (2003). Research Paradigm mixed-method approach, combining data from interview , and archival data, is seen as optimal for this research project as represented in Figure 5-2. 2 A conceptualisation of the Research Approach Research Objective: To explore and conceptualise the use of online social media in enhancing volunteer engagement, specifically as used in the campaign for rural broadband in the Eden Valley, Cumbria. How have online social media been implemented in the context of the broadbandcumbria.com website and to what extent they been used over time? Google Analytics data: longitudinal and archival Wordpress Data: longitudinal and archival Facebook Fan page data: snapshot Twitter account data: snapshot Research Question 2 : What are the perceptions of effectiveness of the use of online social media, specifically broadbandcumbria.com, in terms of volunteer engagement with the campaign for rural broadband in the Eden Valley? Primary data: •Small-scale questionnaire: cross •Face-to-face interviews: cross Kingston University London is the case study, using a small number of in- a rich variety of data allows a rich, detailed examination of a specific 2003). The case study , both qualitative and quantitative, and The case study approach is consistent with the Pragmatic research philosophy, and research approaches. In a single, holistic case using the criteria approach, combining data from interviews, a small- optimal for this research project Research Approach To explore and conceptualise the use of online social media in enhancing volunteer engagement, specifically as used in the campaign for rural broadband in the Eden Valley, Cumbria. What are the perceptions of effectiveness of the use of online social media, specifically broadbandcumbria.com, in terms of volunteer engagement with the campaign for rural broadband in the Eden Valley? scale questionnaire: cross-sectional face interviews: cross-sectional
  47. 47. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 46 of 175 The data analysis is not expected to produce results that are statistically accurate or that can be generalised to the wider population, but will contribute to the depth of understanding of the case in question. The different data sources will allow the study to utilise data and methodological triangulation, provide complementary viewpoints, and look at both macro and micro aspects of the case, as represented in Figure 5-3. Figure 5-3 A conceptualisation of the Data Collection Sources 5.6 Data Collection Methods The following sequence of data collection from a variety of sources was undertaken with the intention of building up layers of understanding and depth of insight. Archival Data Archival data that has been collected during the course of day-to-day activities is a valuable source of data (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 2009). In terms of this project access to archival online data was agreed, and is considered a useful source of secondary data. The archival data allows an element of longitudinal analysis to be included in the study as it was recorded over time. Data was collected from four different sources: • Google Analytics for the Broadband Cumbria website (longitudinal) • Wordpress activity data from the Broadband Cumbria website (longitudinal)
  48. 48. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 47 of 175 • Facebook fan page analytics data (snapshot) • Twitter account data (snapshot) The data is anonymised and thus the privacy of individuals is protected. Access to the data was agreed with the webmaster. An initial set of data was examined as part of the preparation for the project proposal to ensure the approach would be practicable. The data was coded as required, and analysed quantitatively where appropriate using Excel. Insights gained from reviewing the data were used to inform the development of the questionnaire. Small-scale Questionnaire A large-scale survey was beyond the resources of this project; however, a small- scale questionnaire was carried out and provided primary data. The questionnaire (primary) data is cross-sectional. In the absence of a suitable existing previously validated questionnaire the author designed a set of eleven multi-part questions designed to gain insight into perceptions and behaviours, as well as attitudes and demographic data (see Appendix E). The questionnaire data was collected using a self-administered online survey tool (Survey Monkey). This was seen as appropriate as the questionnaire was aimed at online social media users. The target population was defined as “the users of the Broadband Cumbria website”; as at 20 September 2011 there were 452 registered members. This decision was made on the assumption that if 7% of the members responded to the questionnaire this approach would generate a sufficient volume of data to analyse (30+ responses). There were several possible approaches to alerting the members of the website to the questionnaire, and the final approach of posting a comment on the website with a link to the questionnaire was agreed with the webmaster of the website. In addition a number of individuals were contacted using the messaging facilities on the website to invite them to participate.
  49. 49. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 48 of 175 The design of the questionnaire was informed by the literature review, relevant theory and models, the results of the archival data analysis, and a consideration of the parallel development of interview questions. Overall objectives: • To have as few questions as possible and to utilise Likert-type ratings scales (from one to five) where appropriate. This was to encourage participation and completion; for speed and ease of use. • To have a balance of questions phrased both positively and negatively. • To include questions relating to previous studies or models included for comparison, where appropriate for the audience and context. • To include questions developed specifically to shed light on this case. • To allow any question to be missed out or not answered. • To allow respondents the opportunity to add their own comments by including an open question. Previous studies had demonstrated predictors of behaviour based on Education, Income, Gender, Age, and Personality. Education and income were seen as inappropriate for this audience and were not included. Gender and an indication of age (young adult/adult) were included. Personality had previously been gauged by Gil de Zuniga & Valenzuela (2010) using a Semantic differential scale, eg. 1 (extravert/enthusiastic) to 5 (reserved/quiet). For this study the question was modified to “I am typically reserved/quiet” 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Questions relating to Social Orientation as predictors of behaviour have again been used in previous studies, such as Life satisfaction, Organisational trust, Ideological identity and Organisational membership. Life satisfaction and Organisational trust questions were included in a modified form to fit in with the adopted ratings scale 1 (strongly disagree) 5 (strongly agree). Questions relating to media use, specifically frequency, were based on the European Commission’s digital agenda definitions; 1 Never to 5 Frequently (at least weekly). Questions relating to social networks of discussion include the size of online and offline networks, and the strength of ties.
  50. 50. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 49 of 175 Participation in the past 12 months, in terms of Social participation, Public participation and Individual participation, was investigated by including two questions that are indicators for each type of participation, again using the scale 1 Never to 5 Frequently (at least weekly). Questions were included pertaining to the Indicators of participation identified by Brodie et al (2011); Collective or connected, Purposeful/worthwhile, About action, Motivation, and Collective efficacy, as well as on perceptions of Social role in the online community again using the ratings scale 1 (strongly disagree) 5 (strongly agree). Additional questions relating to location, interest, internet accessibility, and level of engagement with the broadband campaign are specific to this study. Other study specific questions include the perception of the effect of broadbandcumbria.com on both the campaign and the individual respondent. The questionnaire was tested and slightly refined based on feedback before being posted on the broadbandcumbria.com website. It was perceived that the assurance of anonymity would encourage responses and also openness. No replies were traceable back to the respondent. The results data were downloaded from the internet, coded as required, and quantitative data analysis was performed to produce descriptive statistics where appropriate. Interviews Interview (primary) data is cross-sectional. The interview data was collected in one- to-one, face-to-face interviews, using a semi-structured approach, recording the interviews for later transcription. Five interviews of up to one hour each were conducted over a weekend visit to Cumbria, in the homes of the interviewees. One interview was conducted in London at the workplace of the interviewee. The design of the interview questions was informed by the literature review, relevant theory and models, the results of the archival data analysis, and the results
  51. 51. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 50 of 175 of the questionnaire. The eleven interview questions (Appendix G) were open and probing as they were intended to explore the individuals’ reflections and perceptions of engagement. Again it was perceived that the assurance of anonymity would encourage full responses and openness. A pro-forma was developed and followed to ensure all interviews were performed to a consistent format. Five of the six interview subjects were unknown to the researcher and were invited by emails or online messages to participate as members of broadbandcumbia.com. The sixth subject (a couple) provided a Bed and Breakfast service to the researcher during a previous visit to the region. They are not members of broadbandcumbria.com. The interviews were transcribed, examined in depth, and interpreted to identify themes and patterns, highlight contradictions, and construct a narrative. 5.7 Ethical/Privacy Considerations As the Case Study collected data from a number of sources, a number of ethical considerations were raised and needed to be addressed with transparency. • Informed consent and honesty when engaging with the participants of interviews and questionnaires. • Privacy, data protection, and confidentiality using data collected online. • Permission to use and access online data. • Security of data and access codes. • Audio recording and transcription consent. • Anonymity. 5.8 Limitations It is recognised that there are a number of both potential and actual limitations on the methodological approach. The relative inexperience of the author in performing original research must be acknowledged. This has been mitigated as far a possible by referencing other work, following best practice advice, and background reading. The potential for researcher bias in the design of the questionnaire and interview questions, as well as the collection of interview data, is recognised. The risk has
  52. 52. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 51 of 175 been managed by building on previous studies and adapting questions used by other researchers as far as possible. The potential for researcher bias in the interpretation of qualitative data has been noted and a statement of personal values presented to allow the interested reader to judge where bias may be likely to impact the report. The researcher has received no financial reward for the work. Reliability and validity are considerations. Archival data-sets from Google Analytics are recognised as not 100% accurate as a number of factors can affect the collection of the data such as: users that do not use Java-script are not counted; ‘location’ is dependent on the ISP used; a ‘unique user’ is more accurately a unique device; and page views are likely to be underestimated if pages do not fully load. The reliability of the small-scale questionnaire data has been encouraged by the careful construction of the questions, testing the questions, and the voluntary nature both of participation, and of giving answers – no answers were forced. This said, there is the inevitable risk of misinterpretation of both the questions and the selected answers, as well as deliberately false or unintentionally misleading replies. The risk of mis-recording interview answers was mitigated by digitally recording each interview; however, background noise for example, or indistinct passages, may affect the reliability of the transcript. There is some risk that the researcher is not sufficiently familiar with the context, area, personalities, background, and politics of the situation to be able to make informed judgements, avoid manipulation, or detect inaccuracies or inconsistencies. This study is not intended, nor likely to provide, generalisable results. It is recognised that the interview subjects and questionnaire respondents are drawn from a small and specific audience that is not representative of the population as a whole.
  53. 53. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 52 of 175 5.9 Summary The case study approach has been supported by a variety of data collection methods with the aim of gathering a rich, varied and comprehensive set of results for interpretation and analysis. The results are presented in the next Chapter.
  54. 54. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 53 of 175 6 Results This section presents a selective overview of the research results starting with the high-level archival data, then considers the questionnaire results, and finally looks in depth at the interview data. The data was approached with an open mind, as opposed to a rigid framework. This allowed themes to develop as the results were explored. More detailed results are presented in the Appendices as follows: Appendix C WordPress Activity Data for the Broadbandcumbria.com Website Appendix D Google Analytics Data for the Broadbandcumbria.com Website Appendix E Small-Scale Online Questionnaire Appendix F Small-Scale Online Questionnaire Results Appendix G Semi-Structured Interview Pro-forma and Questions Appendix H Semi-Structured Interview Pro-forma Transcripts Before looking at the data, it is useful to recap how online social media have been implemented in the specific case under investigation. Broadbandcumbria.com is a community website built using WordPress, “web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog”6 , with a BuddyPress plug-in; “BuddyPress is built to bring people together. It works well to enable people with similar interests to connect and communicate.”7 Together these provide a number of social media facilities including: Blogging: This allows blog ‘articles’ to be written and posted, and the online community to comment and debate in response. Membership: Individuals can sign up to become a member of the site, set up a personal profile, and create ‘friend’ links with other members. Forums: Members can initiate forums to raise and discuss specific issues. Groups: Members can create and join groups. Commenting: Comments can be posted publicly on blogs, forums and groups. Messaging: Members can send each other private messages. 6 http://wordpress.org/ 7 http://buddypress.org/about/story/
  55. 55. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 54 of 175 Hyper-local pages: Specific pages or ‘micro-sites’ that relate to particular parishes/communities can be created. Crowd-sourced Content: Has been included, for example help-pages, a glossary, mapping data, and the ‘Eden Declaration’ (Appendix B). Associated Twitter and Facebook accounts have also been set up and used. In terms of ownership and funding, the following comment by Louis Mosley [Roy Stewart, MP’s assistant] is taken from the website: “Cumbria Broadband Rural & Community Projects Ltd is the company set up to run the [rural broadband] conference at Rheged on 18 September. It’s now using the v small surplus that remained after the event to cover the costs of this website! Rory [Stewart, MP] is a director.”8 The website was initially installed and set-up by Harry Metcalfe of The Dexterous Web9 company, and has subsequently been maintained by a variety of individuals and employees of Rory Stewart, MP. The two main purposes of the website initially were described as; • To provide a place for the community to connect, to find each other and allow local pressure groups to form. • To provide a campaign medium for Westminster Village, a place to post information for a Westminster audience, furthering a political campaign. 6.1 Archival Data Google Analytics for the broadbandcumbria.com Website Looking first at the data taken from Google Analytics covering the period 1st December 2010 to 20th September 2011 over 25,000 visits have been recorded, from 107 countries/territories. The United Kingdom accounts for over 23,000 of the visits (91%). Looking at the distribution in the UK, 664 cities are identified including many in apparently remote locations. This low-level location data cannot be given too much weight as it is likely to be based on the location of the ISP rather than the end-user. 8 http://broadbandcumbria.com/groups/miscellany/ 9 http://dxw.com/our-work/
  56. 56. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 55 of 175 The number of visits per month was highest in December 2010, the first complete month after the website was launched, with 5,757 (22%) of visits. From April to August 2011 the number of visits per month remained fairly consistent and averaged 1,618 visits per month as shown in Figure 6.1. Figure 6-1 Visits per month Source: Google Analytics In the period 1st December 2010 to 20th September 2011 there were over 10,000 unique visitors reported. This number is likely to be somewhat overstated as some individuals will be using more than one device and will be recorded more than once. The average time on site per visit was 4.21 minutes, and the average number of pages viewed was 3.47 per visit. In all 89,699 pages have been viewed. The time on site and pages per visit can be considered high and a sign of positive engagement with the content. Investigating the source of visits can give some insight into who is using the website. Considering the UK visits only, the source data was analysed, allocated to a type, and summarised in Figure 6-2. While the largest number of visits (42%) are from search engines, a significant number are direct visits (28%). Direct visits can indicate the site has been bookmarked by users. Social media, including twitter (792), facebook (183), and various blogs account for 7%. Local websites, visits from broadbandcumbria.com e-mail newsletters and linked micro-sites together account for 17% of the visits indicating a strong local audience. National websites, such as the national press and telecoms related companies, account for 4% of visits, which could be seen as indicating an unusual degree of national interest given the very local nature of the website.
  57. 57. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 56 of 175 Figure 6-2 Analysis of Sources of Visits Source: Google Analytics Data Twitter Data A twitter account ‘@bbcumbria’ reflects the community website on twitter. A snapshot of the account taken in September 2011 is given in Figure 6-3. Compared with the number of visits to the website generated from twitter (792), the number of tweets is very low (35). This implies other more active twitter users have generated activity that has created the traffic flow to the website. This account is effectively dormant despite having 247 followers.
  58. 58. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 57 of 175 Figure 6-3 Twitter Account Page Source: Twitter.com Facebook Data A facebook page represents the broadbandcumbria.com website on facebook. A snapshot of this page is given in Figure 6-4, showing 112 people ‘liking’ the page. The most recent activity on the ‘wall’ of the page is from March 2011. Facebook generated 183 visits to the website, indicating that either the 112 ‘fans’ have generally visited the website from a different source, or they have not engaged with the website at all.
  59. 59. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 58 of 175 Figure 6-4 Facebook Account Page Source: Facebook.com An insight into the pattern of activity over time on the facebook page is given in Figure 6-5. As with the Google Analytics, an initial flurry of activity following the launch has reduced and levelled out by April 2011. It is unclear why no activity is shown initially, but this may be due to a problem with facebook. As with the twitter account, the activity on the facebook account is low. Figure 6-5 Facebook Insights Source: Facebook.com
  60. 60. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 59 of 175 WordPress Activity Data The broadbandcumbria.com community website is based on the popular WordPress application. The WordPress data presents a record of the activity on the site. It has been analysed and provides a valuable insight into the actions of the members of the website over time. Note private message data was not provided or used. As at the 20th September 2011 the website had 452 members. Figure 6-6 shows both the activity on the site and the new members signing up by month. Over 70% of members signed up in December 2010 and January 2011 (318). Following the initial peak of activity early in the year, the number of new members per month has dropped to an average of 10 per month from April to August. Similarly the other activity (posts, comments, befriending etc) has levelled out to an average of 100 per month. Figure 6-6 Activity analysis Source: WordPress Activity data Looking at the all the activity of the members of the site, analysed by activity type in Figure 6-7, the most popular activity at 37% is ‘friendship_created’ (1,351). This activity allows members to link to other members of the site. On average a member has 6 friends as each link includes two members.
  61. 61. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 60 of 175 Figure 6-7 Activity analysis by type Source: WordPress Activity data Blog posts (155) account for 4% of the activity, and the creation of new groups and forum topics (21 and 13) represent just 1.4%. In contrast comments and updates (blog comments, group updates, forum posts, activity updates and activity comments) account for 35% of all activity (1,299). Looking at blog posts and blog comments in more detail, there were 155 blog posts by 36 members (8%), and 611 comments by 53 members (12%). Overall 66 of the 452 members blogged and/or commented (15%). The mean number of blog posts per member is 4.5, the median 1.3 and the mode 1. The range is 28, minimum is 1 and the maximum 29. Figure 6-9 is a histogram showing the blog posts per member.
  62. 62. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 61 of 175 Figure 6-8 Blog Posts per Member Source: WordPress Activity data The mean number of blog comments per member is 11.5, the median 2, and the mode 1. The range is 101, minimum is 1 and the maximum 102. Figure 6-9 is a histogram showing the blog comments per member. Figure 6-9 Blog Comments per Member Source: WordPress Activity data In all 18,850 words were written in blog comments, an average of 355 words per person and 30 words per comment. Figure 6-10 is a representation of words used
  63. 63. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 62 of 175 in the blog comments created from the text of the comments using the wordle.com10 website tool. The size of the word indicates its relative frequency in the text. Figure 6-10 Word-cloud representation of all blog comments Source: wordle.com 6.2 Small-Scale Questionnaire Data There were 31 responses to the questionnaire. To encourage openness no questions were forced and between 1 and 3 respondents skipped some questions. The percentages given below are based on the number of responses to a question. Location: 23 (77%) of respondents were local (Cumbrian), 3 (10%) regional (North- East England), and 4 (13.3%) national (UK). There were no responses from outside the UK. Gender: the breakdown was 5 (17%) female and 25 (83%) male. Age profile: only one respondent was a ‘young adult’ (18-29), with 28 (96%) being 30+. Internet use: 28 (100%) use the internet frequently (almost daily). 30 (100%) used the internet from home, 20 (71%) at work/school/university, and 14 (48%) on a mobile device. 10 http://www.wordle.net/
  64. 64. Kingston University London Copyright © 2012 Page 63 of 175 Engagement with the campaign for rural broadband: 26 (87%) are members of the broadbandcumbria.com website, 16 (53%) are Parish Broadband Champions, and 5 (1.6%) are Hub Co-ordinators. Personal/family or Community/Social was the primary interest of 21 (70%) respondents, while Commercial/Business or Professional/Job-Related was the primary interest of 9 (30%). Just one respondent identified Political as a secondary interest. Academic/Educational was not indicated as an interest (primary or secondary) by any respondent. In terms of extroversion and life satisfaction: the rating average for “I am typically quiet/reserved” was 2.86 (with 3.00 representing neither agree/disagree) indicating a bias towards extroversion. Respondents showed positive ratings averages for life satisfaction (3.57 and 4.07), and also tend to disagree with “my life is difficult” (2.54). In terms of organisational trust, the Local Council and the Political System scored low for trust (2.79 and 2.62). The Judicial System however was more trusted with a ratings average of 2.83 for “I distrust the Judicial System”. Considering participation as Individual, Social and Political, as summarised in Table 6.1, there is a strong level of engagement in all three. Looking at the ratings averages summed for the different types of participation, Social Participation scores highest (3.18), between ‘Often’ and ‘Regularly’. Individual at (2.98) and Political at (2.78) fall between ‘Occasionally’ and ‘Often’.

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