by Craig Hamilton, visiting lecturer at Birmingham City University’s School of Media

I am currently around two thirds of my way through my doctoral research project at BCU. Working out of the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR), I am looking at the experiences of popular music listeners, with a particular focus on digital technologies. The main means through which I do this is The Harkive Project.

Harkive, originally developed during my MA studies at BCU, is an online, crowd-sourced method of gathering information from people about the detail of their music listening. The project occurs on a single day each year and invites people to tell the ‘story’ of their experience with music across the day. Since launching in 2013 the project has gathered over 8,000 stories. The project became the focus of my AHRC Midlands3Cities-funded PhD in 2015, and it returned for its fourth annual run on 19 July 2016.

With the project happening on a single day, there is a great deal of preparation involved to try to ensure it runs successfully. In part this involves a fairly intensive promotional campaign to raise awareness among music fans, and which this year saw me being interviewed live on Virgin Radio UK and also securing coverage in Music Week, the UK’s primary music business trade publication. On top of that, returning contributors also helped by spreading the word on social media.

The second important element of preparation is to ensure that the data collection methods are well designed and robust; people contributing to the project do so in numerous online places, and fairly intensively across a 36-hour period. New developments in this area for the 2016 iteration of the project included the construction of an open API for developers and researchers keen to collaborate with the project, and a dashboard of live data visualisations that enabled people to track the progress of the project.

The ground work in both of these areas paid off, as the project once again gathered a huge number of stories – over 1,000 at a conservative estimate. The next stage of the project is a process of cleaning, sorting and organizing this data, and adding it to the collection of stories gathered since 2013. This is a process that will take me a few weeks, and after which I will know the size and shape of the data set that will progress to the analysis stage. This is the part I am particularly excited about, and I will be posting updates, analysis and visualisations to the Harkive project site as this process unfolds over the coming months.

More about Postgraduate study at Birmingham City University.

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