Abstracts of Volume 30 (2012) (1,2,3&4) of the Journal of Technology in Human Services

Volume 30/1: 2012, General Issue


Emotional outcomes and mechanisms of change in online cognitive-behavioral interventions. A quantitative meta-analysis of clinical controlled studies. By Vlad Mureşan, Guy H. Montgomery, & Daniel David

KEYWORDS: internet, cognitive-behavioral interventions, cognition, mechanisms of change, clinical controlled studies

ABSTRACT:  Objective: The goal of the present study was to investigate whether hypothesized cognitive mechanisms of change mediate the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) delivered online for treating depression and anxiety disorders.
Data sources: Included articles were identified through online searches of MEDLINE, PsychInfo and PsychArticles databases from January 1980 to March 2011. Key terms used were “randomized trials”, “online” and “psychotherapy”, and relevant variations of these terms. Inclusion criteria were as follows: (1) a randomized clinical trial investigating the role of CBT delivered online, (2) the patient sample had clinical or subclinical intensity emotional problems, (3) at least one measure of potentially mediating cognitions was included in the study, (4) the inclusion of a control group , and, (5) sufficient data were provided to allow calculation of effect sizes. Eleven randomized clinical trials were selected based on these criteria. Effect sizes (Cohen’s d) were calculated according to published procedures.  Results revealed a moderate overall effect size of CBT (d=.67, P<.05) on the combined cognitive and emotional outcomes. A positive impact of online CBT on cognitive factors (d=.69, P<.05) and emotional outcomes (d=63, P<.05) was independently demonstrated. In conclusion, cognitive-behavioral therapy delivered online can be used as an efficacious treatment for patients with emotional disorders. Assuming causal effects, the data indicate that cognitive factors are an important mechanism of change in online CBT. This result is consistent with studies of face-to-face CBT. Future online CBT interventions that focus on changing cognitions are likely to be efficacious.


Reflective practice online – exploring the ways social workers used an online blog for reflection by Helen Hickson

KEYWORDS:  reflection, blog, social work, social media

ABSTRACT:  Social workers are increasingly using social media for networking, peer support, reflection and fun. Social media presents exciting opportunities for social work practice; however   social workers, and employers of social workers, need to understand the challenges and conflicts that can occur. This study explored the experiences of social workers who used an on-line blog for reflection, describing different levels of engagement with reflection and the development of an online community of practice to support isolated social workers. This study is significant because whilst there are many studies that describe the experiences of students using a blog for reflection, the author has been unable to identify another study that focuses on the ways social workers engaged with a blog for reflection.  


A Preliminary Comparison Study of Online and Face-to-Face Counseling: Client Perceptions of Three Factors by Courtney Holmes and Victoria Foster

KEYWORDS: online counseling; social presence, therapeutic relationship

ABSTRACT: This preliminary study examined the similarities and differences between online and face-to-face counseling with regard to general mental health, working alliance, and social presence.  Participants included 50 current counseling clients (37 face-to-face, 13 online) who all were recruited through online mediums. Results indicated that online counseling clients perceived a significantly stronger working alliance on the total Working Alliance Inventory-Short Form as well as the Goal subscale than did those who received face-to-face only counseling. No significant differences existed between the groups on general mental health or social presence. These results suggest that a more controlled study with a larger sample might find that a strong working alliance can be developed through online counseling.   


Application Review:  Love is Not Abuse, reviewed by Nada Elias-Lambert & Beverly Black


Book Review:  Assistive Technologies and Other Supports for People with Brain Impairment, (NY: Springer Publishing Company) reviewed by John D. Fluke

Volume 30/2: 2012, General Issue

Accessibility and Agency Website Design: Stumbling Backwards? A Follow Up Study by Kristin Friedmeyer-Trainor, Robert Vernon, & Darlene Lynch

KEYWORDS: website design, literacy, disability, language, nonprofit agencies

ABSTRACT:  This follow-up longitudinal study examined 86 social service agency websites that were previously examined in 2000.  The websites were examined on dimensions of the language, readability, and disability access over a ten year period.  Data were gathered in 2000, 2005 and 2010.  The results indicate that agencies are not creating websites that are user-friendly for diverse populations.  This is due to complex reading and comprehension levels and a lack of language opportunities on the websites. Agencies may be able to better serve clients by a decrease in the sophistication of the agency website, namely reading comprehension levels.


Use of the Internet by Informal Caregivers Assisting People with Multiple Sclerosis by Robert J. Buchanan, Chunfeng Huang, Adele Crudden

KEYWORDS: multiple sclerosis, caregiver, Internet

ABSTRACT:  The Internet is used to help informal caregivers provide assistance to people with chronic illness and disability. We identified factors associated with Internet use by informal caregivers assisting people with multiple sclerosis (MS) using a logistic regression model. Duration of MS in the person receiving care and caregiver age predicted lower Internet use. More hours per week providing care and higher caregiver educational level increased odds of Internet use. The Internet can be a low cost service delivery option to provide education and support to caregivers assisting people with MS.


Youth in Foster Care and Social Media: A Framework for Developing Privacy Guidelines by Dale Fitch

KEYWORDS: Youth in foster care, Information privacy, Online social media, Critical systems heuristics

ABSTRACT: While youth in foster care most likely use social media websites, there appears to be a lack of policy guidelines related to this use. When one considers youth in foster care, the state’s mandate to provide safety, and foster parents’ rights to exercise parenting responsibilities, the notion of privacy and the use of social media becomes complex.  Critical Systems Heuristics will be introduced as a tool in developing policy recommendations. An application of this framework will be provided which can serve as a guide for an agency or workgroup tasked with developing policy guidelines for social media use by youth in foster care


Serving rural communities with distance education degree programs by Rebecca L. Stotzer

KEYWORDS:  rural social work; distance education program; workforce issues

ABSTRACT:  Many school of social work have targeted rural communities as critical regions for distance education (DE) facilitated degree delivery. This paper reports on an initial alumni survey of DE graduates in Hawai‘i, suggesting that the DE program has been successful in its mission to address workforce shortages in the number of social workers in rural areas. Not only are the majority of alumni still living and working rural areas, but they are also pursuing licensure at high rates. This study proposes that distance education not only transforms individuals, but can also be a tool of community change.


Exploring Potential for Information Technology Innovation in Nonprofit Organizations by Kristina Jaskyte

KEYWORDS:  Information technology, innovation, nonprofit organizations

ABSTRACT:  This article investigated user perceptions of innovative information technology. A qualitative analysis of information technology innovation award applications submitted by a variety of nonprofits was conducted to explore two research questions: (1) in what areas of organizational functioning can information technology innovations be implemented and (2) what are the expected benefits associated with the implementation of those information technology innovations? The results showed that technological innovations can occur in administrative, service, and marketing areas; and that the applicants believed that those innovations have a potential to provide numerous positive benefits. Those benefits were associated with clients and programs, internal and external functioning, fundraising and financial aspects, and public image and relationships with stakeholders. Human service organizations proposed the highest numbers of IT innovations in the administrative and technological areas. 


Technology and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: An interactive self-help website for OCD by Elizabeth McIngvale, Christine Bakos-Block, John Hart, & Patrick S. Bordnick

KEYWORDS: Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),self-help, intervention, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure and response prevention (ERP)

ABSTRACT:  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a neurobiological illness characterized by unwanted thoughts and/or images followed by repetitive rituals. About 5 million Americans live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is a manageable illness when proper interventions are utilized. Treatment for OCD is limited due to the lack of adequately trained professionals and the high costs of treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in conjunction with exposure with response prevention (ERP) is the most effective intervention modality available for OCD. To address the treatment gap, an online, interactive self-help website was developed for those living with OCD without access to an effective intervention. This report will explore development of the OCD Challenge website and future implications of its use.  


Book Reviews:  Dying, Death and Grief in an Online Universe: For Counselors and Educators, (NY: Springer Publishing Company) reviewed by Malcolm Payne

Volume 30/3&4: 2012, Special Issue on Methods for Analyzing Social Media

Introduction by Klaus Bredl, Julia Hünniger, & Jakob Linaa Jensen

Social media are becoming increasingly attractive for users. It is a fast way to communicate ideas and can be a key source of information about how people interact. Today it is among the most influencial communication channels. For this reason, social media are important for audience research as well as for technologies that can be used in human services. Social media can be generally understood as web-based services “that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content” (Andreas M. Kaplan/Michael Haenlein: Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media, Business Horizons, Volume 53, Issue 1, January-February 2010.).


Researchers are confronted with the following questions:  How can we analyze social media? Which methods and strategies can we use? Can we just use traditional audience research methods and apply them to online content? Which new research strategies have been developed? What about research ethics – which issues and controversies do we have to pay attention to? How can we develop technical tools for analyzing social media? Which existing tools can we use?

This special issue focuses on research strategies and methods for analyzing social media. The special issue contains research papers that report on the latest social science results and advances in this area. 


The chapters of this special issue include innovative research methods within the field of social media analysis. Topics are:

          ·  innovative research methods that shed light upon patterns of social media use

          ·  qualitative observation techniques to examine the use of social media

          ·  triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods

          ·  case studies and evaluations of social media platforms such as (micro-)blogs, social networks, and video platforms


The issue starts with the paper of Fabio Giglietto, Luca Rossi and Davide Bennato who give an overview of different approaches for studying social media. Given the growing number of diverse studies from different disciplines with a differing focus, the need exists for identifying the various methodologies used. The focus of the paper is a categorization between ethnographical, statistical and computational perspectives. The analysis is clarified by the use of studies about Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.


Twitter is also in the focus of the second paper which is authored by Axel Bruns and Stefan Stieglitz. They present a comparative study to demonstrate quantitative approaches that compare communication patterns in microblogging platforms. As a result, distinct types of discussion were identified. A range of metrics regarding the communications in Twitter is presented, and the influencing factors of subjects and context in relation to different communication channels are demonstrated. Also in the area of major topics and events, they found stable patterns of usage from the analysis.


In the following article, Pascal Jürgens concentrates on the “social” in social media and analyzes the aspect of communities. Using the example of Twitter, he shows the integration occuring in the range of digital methods used. The analytic framework starts with the digital traces each user leaves on the net. This formerly hidden aspects of social interaction are now accessible for researchers. Especially, it is possible to observe the interaction patterns in networks. These new approaches evoke special challenges, which can be overcome by the application of innovative methodologies. The detection of communities stays at the center of the discussed methods. The discovery of “proximity in groups” is the basis for further network analysis.


The next paper by Tim Highfield describes topical network analysis as a method for studying online activity. Topical networks are units of analysis within large datasets. By using qualitative and quantitative methods, the approach can supplement the analysis of large datasets to provide further detail into what is being tracked. It enables researchers to determine why and when connections were made. The paper shows an important method for improving our understanding of the structure of online communication.


Stine Lomborg’s paper also touches upon the analyses of large bodies of data. She discusses the method of web archiving in qualitative social media research. She highlights that social media archives (i.e. complete recordings of posts and comments on given social media) are highly useful data corpuses for studying the social media users’ communicative practices. She presents a theoretical examination of web archiving and is engaging in an example-based discussion of the methodological, technical and ethical challenges of harvesting social media archives.


The paper by Lünich, Rössler and Hautzer focuses on the study of media use patterns, more precisely the impact of relationship-related information. By studying what they call social navigation on the Internet, i.e., media use patterns that are driven by the previous media activities of others, the authors shed light on the dynamics of relationships within online media content. By using mainly online news media, they discuss how to investigate rating, forwarding, and even the production of media items.


In their paper Siibak, Forsman and Hernwall take a more qualitative, anthropologically inspired approach and discuss creative research methods as a tool for investigating young people’s identity construction on social network sites. Methodologically, they address physical focus groups combined with online interaction as a way to observe the construction and use of gender codes and norms. They argue that such creative research methods are useful for engaging young people in participatory, creative activities, thereby facilitating reflections and interactions not attainable through alternative methods.


Matthew Crick’s paper presents his point of departure in YouTube which he claims is the least scholarly researched form of social media, particularly when it comes to so-called under-represented and under-researched populations. He builds up a formalized approach based on systematic measurement to study how YouTube is used for information seeking and learning among young people, a topic often neglected in similar studies. Thus, he claims, such an approach should provide valuable information about use, which is normally neglected in the dominant research on social media.


Tara La Rose presents a case study of a digital media story on YouTube that gives a glimpse into a student intern’s experience of human service work. By using multi-modal analysis, LaRose provides a complex understanding of the potential role that social media processes may play in human services. The paper shows the complexity of personal stories and the need for additional research into the possibilities of digital media stories.


The last paper also deals with new technologies in human services and the health sector and seeks methods to analyze these new formats. In their paper, Bouman, Drossaert and Pieterse propose a new methodology to measure the potential impact of new digital health communication formats. It is called Mark My Words (MMW) and is based on the concept of “markers” and on data analysis via text mining techniques. MMW is being used to evaluate the impact of a web-based Entertainment-Education series on teens and young adults in the Netherlands. MMW is applied in an innovative web-based Entertainment-Education series. The paper outlines the research design and shows the methodological advantages and challenges.


The content of the book addresses scientists who are dealing with the use and effect of Social Media in communication processes. The focus is on different methods of analyzing social interaction in online communication. These innovative research methods target the interest of media and communication researchers, sociologists, social science researcher and media psychologists as well as all practitioners working with methods in applied research on social media.



The Open Laboratory: Limits and Possibilities of Using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as a Research Data Source by Fabio Giglietto, Luca Rossi, & Davide Bennato

KEYWORDS:  Computational social science, ethnography, methodology, social media, literature review

ABSTRACT:  A growing amount of content is published worldwide every day by millions of social media users. Most of this content is public, permanent and searchable. At the same time, the number of studies proposing different techniques and methodologies to exploit this content as data for researchers in different disciplines is also growing. The paper presents an up-to-date literature review that frames available studies using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as data sources, in the perspective of traditional approaches for social scientists: ethnographical, statistical and computational. The aim is to offer an overview of strengths and weaknesses of different approaches in the context of the possibilities offered by the different platforms.


Quantitative Approaches to Comparing Communication Patterns on Twitter by Axel Bruns & Stefan Stieglitz

KEYWORDS:  Twitter, social media, public communication, media events, communicative patterns

ABSTRACT:  To date, available literature mainly discusses Twitter activity patterns in the context of individual case studies, while comparative research on a large number of communicative events, their dynamics and patterns is missing. By conducting a comparative study of more than forty different cases (covering topics such as elections, natural disasters, corporate crises, and televised events) we identify a number of distinct types of discussion which can be observed on Twitter. Drawing on a range of communicative metrics, we show that thematic and contextual factors influence the usage of different communicative tools available to Twitter users, such as original tweets, @replies, retweets, and URLs. Based on this first analysis of the overall metrics of Twitter discussions, we also demonstrate stable patterns in the use of Twitter in the context of major topics and events.


Communities of Communication: Making Sense of the "social" in Social Media by Pascal Jürgens

KEYWORDS: Network Analysis, Community Detection, Computational Social Science, Digital Methods, Twitter

ABSTRACT:  As social media usage permeates people’s lives, an increasing portion of their daily behavior leaves digital traces to be used by researchers. Social scientists can hope to gain new insight into the previously hidden but digitally recorded aspects of our digital social lives. Beyond aggregate and individual-level studies of user behavior, the digital traces also enable scientific examination of the structure of social interaction through networks. At the same time, the large scale and networked nature of social media data pose a new set of challenges to be overcome through the development of sound methodologies. We take stock of current methodological promises and challenges in social media analysis. Community detection, a set of methods for the discovery of closely knit groups, is then presented as an intermediary step that enables application of existing traditional and network analytical approaches in a smaller setting more suited to social scientific questions. In closing, we argue that this network proximity based clustering is often more useful for social media analysis than demographic grouping.


Researching communicative practice: Web archiving in qualitative social media research by Stine Lomborg

KEYWORDS: social media, web archiving, qualitative methods, communicative practices, audience studies

ABSTRACT:  This article discusses the method of web archiving in qualitative social media research. While presenting a number of methodological challenges, social media archives (i.e. complete recordings of posts and comments on given social media) are also highly useful data corpuses for studying the social media users’ communicative practices. Through a theoretical examination of web archiving as a new method enabled by the web itself, and an example-based discussion of the methodological, technical and ethical challenges of harvesting social media archives, the article discusses the merits and limitations of using social media archives in empirical social media research.


Talking of many things: Using topical networks to study discussions in social media by Tim Highfield

KEYWORDS:  (Topical) networks, Social media, Hyperlinks, Blogs, Public debate, Issue publics

ABSTRACT:  This paper outlines a method for studying online activity using both qualitative and quantitative methods: topical network analysis. A topical network refers to “the collection of sites commenting on a particular event or issue, and the links between them” (Highfield, Kirchhoff, & Nicolai, 2011, p. 341). The approach is a complement for the analysis of large datasets enabling the examination and comparison of different discussions as a means of improving our understanding of the uses of social media and other forms of online communication. Developed for an analysis of political blogging, the method also has wider applications for other social media websites such as Twitter.


Social Navigation on the Internet:  A Framework for the Analysis of Communication Processes by Marco Lünich, Patrick Rössler, & Lena Hautzer

KEYWORDS:  Social Navigation, Online Content Analysis, Multi-method Design, Algorithms, Social Media Applications

ABSTRACT:  The term ‘Social Navigation’ (SN) refers to media use patterns that are driven by the previous media activities of others. This phenomenon is widely encountered in Social Media environments, which allow users to easily leave and receive information. However, investigating the variety of SN actions such as rating, forwarding, and even producing media items oneself, increases the prevalent challenges of empirical research on web content. The article reflects on these challenges and offers possible solutions via the example of a pilot study concerning online news based on a multi-method design with a particular emphasis on online content analysis. Special attention is devoted to the dynamics of online media and online news in particular, data reactivity during research, algorithmic content production, and the impact of relationship-related information.


Employing Creative Research Methods with Tweens in Estonia and Sweden:  Reflections on a case study of identity construction on social networking sites by Andra Siibak, Michael Forsman, & Patrik Hernwall

KEYWORDS:  creative research methods; gender; tweens; identity; social networking sites,

ABSTRACT:  In this article we discuss our experiences from setting up workshops, inspired by creative research methods (Gauntlett 2005; 2007), on the theme of construction of online identities by young people (aged 13-14) in Estonia and in Sweden. Our primary focus is on the opportunities and possible challenges involved when using creative research methods to study the identity construction process of young people by engaging them in participatory, creative activities. Our experiences indicate that such an approach can be especially beneficial when working with young people, as it enabled us to observe the actual construction and usage of gender codes and norms, both in the offline peer group context and in an online setting.


Social Media Use in the Bronx:  New Research and Innovations in the Study of YouTube’s Digital Neighborhood by Matthew Crick

KEYWORDS:  YouTube, Social Networking, Bronx, Surveillance, Internet

ABSRACT:  YouTube has surpassed other social media platforms on a massive scale in application and influence, and has recently begun to impact the way people seek-out and use information, learn about the world, and share their own unique perspective often with an international audience. However, this ubiquitous form of social media is perhaps the least scholarly researched form of social media, particularly when it comes to so-called under-represented and under-researched populations. Generally speaking, formalized social-media theoretical tools and systematic measurement have been lacking as well. YouTube exemplifies the tension between an empowered user and powerful commerce-driven creators in the battle for media control and demands scholarly analysis.


Digital Media Stories Through Multi-modal Analysis: A Case Study of Erahoneybee’s Song about a Child Welfare Agency by Tara La Rose

KEYWORDS:  reflexive practice, social work, digital media storytelling, multi-modal analysis, discourse analysis

ABSTRACT:  Tuber Erahoneybee’s digital media story Song About a Child Welfare Agency provides YouTube audiences with a glimpse into a student intern’s experience of human service work. This paper uses Erahoneybee’s story as a case study in the application of multi-modal analysis with digital media story texts. Application of multi-modal analysis in this way supports multiple and open readings of these texts which highlight meanings made from the multiple communication modes and the convergence of these modes present in this digital story. The analysis suggests the complex and political nature of personal stories of human service work and the need for additional research into the possibilities of digital media stories in the field.  


Mark My Words: The Design of an Innovative Methodology to Detect and Analyze Interpersonal Health Conversations in Web and Social Media by Martine, P.A. Bouman, Constance H.C. Drossaert, & Marcel, E. Pieterse,

KEYWORDS: computer mediated communication (CMC), entertainment education, media research, social media, health communication, text and data mining techniques.

ABSTRACT:  Internet technology in which social media play a central role, offers new opportunities for health communication. The Center for Media & Health (CMH) in the Netherlands in collaboration with the University of Twente developed a methodology called Mark My Words (MMW) to detect and monitor interpersonal conversations on social media. The MMW methodology is based on the concept of “markers” and on data analysis via text mining techniques. MMW is applied in an innovative web-based Entertainment-Education series, called SndBites. This article describes the design of this new research methodology and shares the methodological advantages and challenges.