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Unisa PhD students attend international social media conference

The European Conference on Social Media (ECSM) was established seven years ago in Brighton in the United Kingdom, and has subsequently been held in Portugal, France, Lithuania and Ireland. The conference has attracted participants from over 40 countries and been attended by a combination of academic scholars, public sector workers, practitioners and individuals who are engaged in various aspects of the social media industry. The conference brings like-minded researchers together with a purpose of bringing leading social media experts to discuss advances in social media research.  

Dr Shawren Singh (Photo: Twitter)

This year, the conference took a virtual format due to Covid-19 restrictions worldwide, and was hosted from 2 to 3 July in Larnaca, Cyprus. Dr Shawren Singh, Chair of Department: Information Systems at Unisa, was invited by the conference organisers to facilitate a Knowledge Café. The organisers also allowed him to select six PhD candidates from Unisa to attend the conference. 

Singh says that social media is getting adopted and applied in almost every area of human activity, be it for personal applications, in education, for commercial applications or in the public sector. ‘The rapid uptake of social media is related to many factors including its ease of use and adaptability to different devices,’ he explains.  ‘While social media provides great convenience, it also posits some challenges. Taking this into consideration, the ECSM therefore seeks to establish a home for researchers and practitioners with a wide range of approaches to engaging with the impact, use and potential of social media across disciplines. The conference committee welcomes contributions on a wide array of topics using a range of scholarly approaches including theoretical and empirical papers employing qualitative, quantitative and critical methods.’

Dorca Nyamusi Stephen

Among the six students that attended the conference was Dorca Nyamusi Stephen, a second-year PhD student in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Asked about her experience at the conference, Stephen says: ‘I am deeply indebted to Unisa through the Chair of my Department Professor Melusi Khumalo for sponsoring me to attend the conference.’ Stephen explains that the two-day conference was a thrilling experience as she had an opportunity to learn from the presentations on the application of social media to further scholarship in different fields. ‘I acquired a comprehensive overview of social networking and social media platforms integration to get a positive benefit on research, lectures, open repositories, sales, marketing and blogs,’ she says. ‘Judging by the presentations Unisa has made great strides in integrating social media to learning as well as enhancing communication. For instance, Unisa has an integrated online teaching and learning platform, and it has subscribed to numerous and updated online repositories, journals, and scholarly articles where learners get the information.’

As an upcoming Pure Mathematician in Pointfree Topology, Stephen says she learnt a lot from the conference. ‘I therefore look forward to participating in next year’s conference by doing a presentation on social media impact on my research work as a Pointfree Topologist,’ she concludes.

Thembeka Mpapama

Thembeka Mpapama, a PhD Communication Sciences student, also attended the conference. Explaining her experience, Mpapama says: ‘Attending this relevant conference in the early stage of my studies gave me an opportunity to

listen to what my peers in the world are doing. It was interesting to give input on my views on social media. Most presentations and discussions were about the use of social media in conveying various messages, which gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I do my work as a Communication and Marketing Specialist in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Unisa. I would really like to encourage my colleagues in the communication and marketing fields to attend such conferences in order to improve strategies amid Covid-19. To fellow PhD students, I would like to say overcome your fears and doubts, and dare to attend academic conferences at an early stage of your PhD studies.’

Anastacia Dlamini

Another student who attended the conference is Anastacia Dlamini, a PhD Applied Mathematics student. Dlamini says that attending the conference enlightened her on how social media is doing more than just connecting people. ‘It is a platform where you can educate yourself, acquire knowledge to improve your life, community, business, skills, and many more,’ she says. ‘As a mathematician, it helped me understand how to inculcate social media to benefit society. I can use my career to teach learners through social media platforms.’

* By Tshimangadzo Mphaphuli, Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2020-07-10 00:00:00.0