Social media helps researchers study a social phenomenon

Jun 24 2014


IMAGE_story_Euromaidan_video_conferenceIn November 2013, a simple, peaceful demonstration against a political move pulling Ukraine out of the association agreement with the European Union quickly evolved into protests against violence and corruption. People in Ukraine immediately took to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, instantly connecting people many time zones away with the events of the social phenomenon called Euromaidan.

Roman Petryshyn, director of MacEwan University’s Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre (URDC), says using the same technology that drove Euromaidan to study the events just made sense.

“When the news broke, we met with our colleagues at the University of Alberta and decided to try to involve the academic community in this process as it was happening – providing commentary and analysis much more quickly than the traditional process of publishing articles. It has been amazing to see the feelings and reflections of scholars and students change and evolve in the midst of these events.”

Conducting research in real time

Partnering with universities in Ukraine, they formed the Contemporary Ukraine Research Forum and built a web-based platform for researchers and students in both countries and around the world. Here, they began documenting and studying several aspects of Euromaidan – folklore and culture, media and communication, and politics and social structure.

One of those researchers was Jeff Stepnisky, chair of sociology at MacEwan University, who is researching cosmopolitan identity on the maidan.

“It has been invaluable to be able to talk to people in Ukraine about the events and their perceptions of events as they’ve been unfolding in real time,” says Jeff. “I was used to spending months and months studying a particular phenomenon and then only writing about it after I was comfortable with my understanding of it. Keeping up in real time feels riskier because you’re blogging about things and doing quick analyses that may or may not be accurate. That’s been challenging, but it’s been exciting too.”

Community invited to participate in international video conference on June 26

What began as a six-month electronic experiment is culminating with an international video conference on Thursday, June 26. Researchers from MacEwan University, the University of Alberta, the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and the Ukrainian Catholic University will present nine- to 12-minute videos of their work that will be directly integrated with Twitter. It’s a state-of-the-art approach that Roman hopes will interest researchers as well as people in the community.

“We have had a lot of interest in the Edmonton community and invite everyone to participate,” says Roman.

Video will be live streamed from 8:30 to 11 a.m. MST at http://euromaidan-researchforum.ca. Anyone can provide feedback and ask questions in real time via Twitter by tweeting at @EuromaidanForum or by posting on the Facebook page Contemporary Ukraine Research Forum: The Case of Euro-Maidan.

All presentations and Twitter discussions will also be archived on the site so they can be accessed after the conference.