Connecting with the Community: Raquel Recuero on Social Networks and Open Access in the Social Sciences

By Bailey Baumann, Editorial Assistant, SAGE Open

jjSoon after the publication of her first SAGE Open article, Dr. Raquel Recuero chose to share her excitement—and her article—over Twitter. “Hashtags Functions in the Protests Across Brazil” by Recuero et al., explores the ways in which hashtags were used to mobilize people and shape competing narratives of the June 2013 social protests across more than 200 Brazilian cities.

The published article is accessible here, and is, of course, completely free for anyone to read, download, or share.

Curious to learn more about her research and her thoughts on open access publishing during Open Access Week, we interviewed Dr. Recuero.hh

Raquel Recuero (born 1977, Pelotas, Brazil) is a professor and a researcher currently based at Universidade Catolica de Pelotas (Pelotas, Brazil) and Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Porto Alegre, Brazil). Recuero has a B.Sc. in Law and another in Journalism and has been engaged in computer mediated communication research since she was an undergraduate. She completed her PhD in Communication and Information Science in 2006. Her research interests are focused on understanding discourse on social network sites and its effects in society, particularly focusing on violence and political mobilizations; and the development of new methods to study these discourses. Recuero is currently the leader of MIDIARS (Media, Discourse and Social Network Analysis Research Group) and is author to many Portuguese books.

Q. Why did you decide to submit this research to an open access (OA) journal as opposed to a traditional, subscription-based journal? Did the knowledge that this paper would be free to read and share on social media networks play a role?

First of all, I believe in open science. I believe research results should be open, easily accessible by all, and sharable through social media. For example, there isn’t much funding for research in Brazil and often accessing papers in closed journals is too expensive for our research groups. Also there is another reason: in Brazil, most of research funding comes from public agencies (government money). Thus, I believe it to be fair to publish research results in open journals so the public can have access.

Q. OA publishing has a different impact on researchers living in different parts of the globe. In your opinion, how does open science affect researchers in a country like Brazil differently than it does researchers in the U.S. or the U.K.? Or is it the same?

I believe it affects everyone, but probably it affects poorer countries where researchers cannot afford to pay the fees to read these papers. In Brazil’s case, I think open access has more visibility and more impact than closed journals, especially for Social Sciences.

Q. Many early-career researchers are cautious when it comes to OA because they are unsure how publishing in OA journals over subscription-based journals might affect tenure. What would you say to this group?

I will probably be a bit bold when I say this, but I think publications in open access journals should be valued for tenure, because research visibility outside the UK and USA is much greater. And visibility means impact if the research is good, which is also good for the university.

Q. Your research on the effects of social networks is fascinating. In your opinion, how has it been a force for good in improving society? How has it been a force for bad?

Thanks. I believe social media is a strong force for change, sometimes good changes (such as participation in government decisions, public discussions and giving visibility to things that were invisible to society before) and sometimes bad ones (the rise of violence in discourse against minorities). We don’t fully understand these impacts yet. I believe there are also global and local impacts which we are only beginning to focus on. For good or for bad, we need to understand what is happening and how these changes are influencing information and behavior in our societies.

Q. You talk about new methods for studying the discourses of social networks. We’d love to hear more about what these methods look like.

I’m very interested in developing new methods to study large corpora of textual messages from social media, focusing on discourse (the ideas behind what is said and what isn’t).  I’m trying to mix some ideas from social network analysis and content analysis and trying to focus on what Foucault called “discursive formations”, the ideas that are regularly present in what people publish in social media. I believe there is a unique opportunity to understand how these ideas spread and reverberate in particular societies. For example, how are women portrayed in different societies through social media discourse?  (We have been observing that even in more liberal countries, women are still reduced to traditional roles and traditional values, such as “wife”, “mother” and described as “pretty” or “beautiful” rather than “smart” or “capable”. Also, when people use derogatory words to talk about women in politics, women are criticized for their appearance while their male counterparts are criticized for their capability or ideas.) I think we need more comprehensive methods to extract these regularities from social media data.

Q. We also thought it was interesting that you chose to study hashtags in the context of political protests.  What role does the social spread of information play in the creation of social and political change?

This is something our research group has been discussing for a long time. We believe hashtags functions are constantly changing in Twitter’s context. People use these tags in several ways and during the protests, we saw their function wasn’t simply to mark context. There was much more to it, which we tried to explore in this paper. And there are still other functions. We’ve been observing hashtag “wars” among different political parties in Brazil, supporters trying to get their message (the tag) more visible than the other party ones. Brazil is in the middle of a crisis right now, and both government supporters and opposition are fighting in social media for visibility, seeking to influence public opinion. I find very important to understand the effects of this war on how people perceive the government and decide their support.

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Read past Connecting with the Community interviews:

     
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