Monday, May 23, 2011

Almost an entire year... Research Almost Done!!!

It has been nearly a year since I have posted on this blog. Lots of things have gone on these past few months. Much of my time has been devoted to my research, finishing up my PhD and looking for gainful employment. With the PhD winding down, and the research track I have chosen, this blog space may be more relevant to my work than ever.

For one, I'm working on a software project that is being used to conduct content and social network analysis of food bloggers in cyberspace. The idea behind the project is to gain a better understanding of food discourse in cyberspace. In particular, I'm looking at dominant themes among alternative agri-food movements (AAFMs). Basically, the software is a webcrawler and screenscraper that searches, indexes and records data from publicly available blogs that publish content about: Local Food, Food Sovereignty, Slow Food, Organic Food, Community Food Security, Sustainable Cooking, Sustainable Agriculture, etc. Currently, the code is pretty crude, but it works! I'm developing the project in PHP/MYSQL and will be adding a slick UI the employs some cool AJAX stuff.

Aside from geeking out on building the software, several research questions are directing this inquiry:
  1. Does the blogosphere reflect current trends among food shoppers? In other words, are the main themes expressed by food bloggers, the same themes that are influencing shifting consumer choice with respect to local and organic foods?

  2. Does food discourse in cyberspace reflect the social and geographical context of place? For instance, I suggest that CSAs and Slowfood might be more relevant themes in say, Berkeley CA. Whereas, food sovereignty might be more relevant theme in say, inner-city Detroit.

  3. And finally, I want to ask the question as to whether there are multiple food movements, or one food movement with variations depending on social and geographic context.

Using consumer survey data collected this last fall (2010), together with US Census data and the information gathered through the software, I anticipate being able to offer a new perspective on some of interesting debates in current agri-food scholarship. Anyway, things are moving fast and I hope to have all data analyzed, papers written and dissertation completed by October of this year!


Scott Dempwolf said...


Very interesting. I am also finishing my PhD in planning at the University of Maryland and am using SNA to look at the local economic impact of innovation by reconstructing patent-based innovation networks. I taught a graduate course this past semester on technology led economic development and the students were researching and blogging about potential projects. One that really caught their interest was the concept of food hubs. You may find some of their posts interesting. The blog is not public, but you can access it at

I would be interested in learning more about your research and the software you are developing. I have a paper on the uses of social network analysis in planning forthcoming in the journal of planning literature. (draft available at Given the rapid increase in planning uses of SNA My colleague Ward Lyles (UNC Chapel hill) and I are launching a companion blog site as the paper is published to profile uses and projects that were not covered in the paper. Would you be willing to write a post on your research? Please contact me directly at so we can follow up. Thanks!

Scott Dempwolf

Justin G. Smith said...

Scott, thanks for the comment and the link! I will be contacting you! Sounds like interesting stuff to say the least...

Social Network said...

Hey its really very nice and true that Social Network Analysis has become the integral part of life......without it life is tasteless.......