Social media by proxy: a Carnegie Research Incentive Grant for Dr Gemma Webster

Dr Gemma Webster

Dr Gemma Webster

Congratulations to my Centre for Social Informatics colleague Dr Gemma Webster, who has recently been awarded a Carnegie Research Incentive Grant (RIG). Such grants are offered to make it possible for Early Career Researchers like Gemma to undertake a short project as a Principal Investigator.

Gemma‘s application for funding is one of 59 that were successful from a total of 131 submissions in the last RIG application round (as noted in the Carnegie Trust’s analysis of RIG outcomes for the March 2018 deadline).

Gemma‘s project is entitled ‘Social media by proxy: strategies for managing the online profiles of adults with dementia’.

Gemma‘s interest in social media proxies has been prompted by the recognition that the use of social media by older people is increasing at the same time that instances of diagnosis of dementia are growing. In parallel, there is a need for more carers to manage the social media accounts of others who are vulnerable and/or incapacitated. With our colleague Frances Ryan, who will join the team when the projects starts in January 2019, Gemma will investigate the experiences of people who act as ‘social media proxies’ as they look after the social media profiles for adults in their care.

Data will be gathered from social media proxies to gain insights into how they manage social media profiles for other people. These data will be collected in two ways. First, social media proxies will be asked to keep participant diaries. Here, for a specific period, they will note and reflect upon the online activities that they carry out on behalf of others. Second, data will be collected by interviews during which the information practices that the social media proxies undertake on behalf of others will be discussed.

There are plans for the research to be reported in: (1) a project report; (2) an academic journal article; (3) guidance materials for social media proxies (for example, leaflets); and (4) an article in The Conversation. There will also be a dissemination event for stakeholders to include care home workers, carers of dementia patients, local authority officials, and members of third sector organisations that provide support to vulnerable and/or incapacitated groups.

For further information about the project, please email Gemma Webster: g.webster@napier.ac.uk.

The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland

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