My Data or Data Mining?

By Associate Professor Will Thomas, Suffolk Business School 

We’ve all experienced the wonders of data-driven marketing campaigns. Search for a new mobile phone on one site and you will see a stream of targeted advertisements promoting special offers and the latest handsets as you continue to browse. These can be useful – I often get interrupted in the middle of searching and find an advert reminds me what I was doing earlier, or I see a good offer on a product I know that I want to buy. Equally, they can be annoying – continuing to appear even after you’ve made your purchase or starting to feel like you are being pestered or hounded into a purchasing decision.

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Recently though, we’ve heard about other uses of our online data – how companies might use it to profile us, to make predictions about how we might act, not just in terms of which trainers we might buy, but also about how we intend to vote or what issues are most important to us. Stories such as those about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook or about the use of data by the Gold Coast council highlight the importance of the personal information we keep online. In a world where our data is increasingly ‘out there’ and searchable many questions are raised about how companies should behave.

For marketing professionals, these questions are an ever-present part of their day-to-day practice. As they act to advise clients on the creation of marketing campaigns these questions about the appropriate use of data come up regularly. Those starting a career in marketing need more and more knowledge about where data comes from and the ways in which data can be used in creating personalised content. This is one of the reasons that the new BA (Hons) Marketing course at the University of Suffolk contains modules that will develop skills in data manipulation and the creation of online content as well as those that discuss marketing theory and practice – and we also discuss Business Ethics! We understand that the marketing world isn’t about understanding ‘digital’ but it’s about understanding data – and this course will ensure that our graduates are ready for a career that will be dominated by data.

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#SBSStudents: Finance for all? An insight into the world of money, power, and poverty

By Anna Hinds, BA Accounting and Financial Management Student

Last week was a real eye-opener into the true world of finance for both the first and second-year students at the University of Suffolk. The true identity of finance was revealed in the form of two field trips for the second-year students, one of which we were accompanied by the enthusiastic first-years, who rekindled our excitement for the subject that we are studying.

The week started off with the second-year students paying a visit to the Ipswich Citizen’s Advice Bureau, a UK charity specialising in advice and support for people in all kinds of difficulty, from debt to bills to unemployment and benefit support. A detailed and informative workshop was delivered to us by Nelleke, who quite clearly explained to us the role of the CAB; their aims as a business; and what they help their clients to achieve. It was also made explicitly clear that they are non-judgemental and confidential, which is of particular importance to their clients, so that they feel confident and have no shame in asking for help when it is needed. The CAB is a free advice service (a charity), which is indirectly funded by taxpayers to provide a free service to the user. The two main aims of the organisation are to: give help to people advice for any problems that they face; and to seek change and influence decision makers. In a modern society where we are continually fighting for equality, should a charity organisation have to beg those in government etc. to change the laws to make things fairer for those who are at the bottom of the social hierarchy? I wonder.

PHOTOS: Left to right: students at a CAB workshop; students at the ICAEW listening to Martin’s presentation; on the City of London tour, taking in the scenery and architecture.

We were also given a task on debt to complete, which highlighted serious consequences to us that we were unaware of – including the fact that a £1,000 fine is incurred for not paying a TV licence. Leaflets and budgeting programmes were also received which is used for clients to help maintain their money; this was particularly useful for us as well.

The second field trip, despite starting out on a dull, cold, and wet journey into Liverpool Street Station, was soon turned around with the awe-inspiring buildings and architecture of the City of London as we embarked on our tour of the square mile, giving us a brief, but informative overview of the City’s history and quirky facts too. The guide was the talented historian Marilyn Greene, who used to work for the Victoria & Albert Museum and is a professional historian. The huge sky scrapers and modern yet historic feel of the city oozed out the feelings of wealth, power, and knowledge, making us students feel somewhat medicore in comparison. Our trip to the City was further extended by a visit to the ICAEW, where they kindly provided us with lunch and refreshments, before delivering presentations to us, one of which by Dominic Sheehy explained what it entails to embark on our journey to becoming a fully-fledged ICAEW Chartered Accountant. This was followed by another presentation by Martin Martinoff, which even though it may have been less formal, definitely left food for thought, and much room for discussion and debate about the culture and ethics of modern day finance, including: what is our goal? Why do we want to be accountants? Is there room for accountants in the future?

The day ended with a brief but relaxing meditation session with Professor Atul Shah, the organiser of the whole experience, which enabled us to reflect on our journeys in life, ranging from our school memories, up to the present day. This exercise helped us to think about our futures after graduation, and what it is that we are striving to aim for.
Overall these two field trips have given us invaluable experiences, and have undoubtedly taught us a lot. On a personal level, it has struck a huge reality check for me; the stark contrast between organisations such as the CAB and big central banks in the City, where it is extremely clear that more than ever before, the contrast and gap between the rich and the poor in this country is huge – and what can we do about it? Will we ever see the time when a bank opens its doors to teach the financially illiterate how to understand mortgages, APR rates, and even the basics of finance, or will we have to keep relying on small charity organisations such as the CAB to pick up the pieces that these larger organisations have created and dumped onto society?

For more information on our Accounting and Finance degrees, please see our website.

#SBSResearch: Ethnographic Research & Analysis

Colleagues across the University of Suffolk are pleased to announce the launch of their book Ethnographic Research and Analysis: Anxiety, Identity and Self.

Tom Vine (Suffolk Business School),‎ Jessica Clark and Sarah Richards (Department of Children, Young People and Education) are the editors of this volume.

Tom explains:

The idea for this book originated from a 2012 conference held at the University of Suffolk. What emerged from this conference was recognition that although our disciplinary backgrounds varied, there was significant value in establishing a shared platform for our ethnographic experiences, not least in the interests of mutual scholarship and reciprocal learning. Notably, and in spite of our disparate subject areas, it became clear that as ethnographers we were encountering similar challenges and epistemological anxieties. Moreover, there appeared to be mutual recognition in terms of the potential for advancing the ethnographic method in the future. In capturing the essence of this conference, this book is not intended as a ‘how to guide’, of which there are many, but rather a space to bring together and share the experiential aspects of ethnographic work. As such, this edited book presents these experiences from a wide range of disciplines including work and organization studies, sociology, social policy, philosophy, management, health and human sciences, family studies, education, disability studies, and childhood studies.

The blurb for the book:

This book reflects on the contemporary use of ethnography across both social and natural sciences, focusing in particular on organizational ethnography, autoethnography, and the role of storytelling. The chapters interrogate and reframe longstanding ethnographic discussions, including those concerning reflexivity and positionality, while exploring evolving themes such as the experiential use of technologies. The open and honest accounts presented in the volume explore the perennial anxieties, doubts and uncertainties of ethnography. Rather than seek ways to mitigate these ‘inconvenient’ but inevitable aspects of academic research, the book instead finds significant value to these experiences.

Taking the position that collections of ethnographic work are better presented as transdisciplinary bricolage rather than as discipline-specific series, each chapter in the collection begins with a reflection on the existing impact and character of ethnographic research within the author’s native discipline. The book will appeal to all academic researchers with an interest in qualitative methods, as well as to advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students.

This volume can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk and is available from the University of Suffolk Library.