Friends of Agro-Know: Dr. Wietske van Osch

Dr. Wietske van Osch with Nikos (left) and Giota (right)

Dr. Wietske van Osch, Assistant Professor at the Michigan State University, Department of Media & Information, visited the Agro-Know offices on Wednesday 16/4/2014. She had the opportunity to get to know the AK team and discuss with Nikos, Giota and other team members about various topics.

Dr. van Osch was kind enough to provide us with her feedback on our questions, in the form of a mini interview for the Agro-Know blog; you can find them right below:


V: Could you please tell us a bit about yourself? What is your (educational/academic) background?

W: My name is Wietske van Osch. I am an assistant professor in the Department of Media & Information (formerly Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media) at Michigan State University. I completed my Ph.D. in Economics (with a focus on Management Information Systems) at the University of Amsterdam Business School. Before that, I completed a M.Sc./MPhil in Organization Science from the VU University Amsterdam/Copenhagen Business School and a B.Sc. in Culture, Organization & Management from the VU University Amsterdam.


V: What are your research interests and how do you apply them in your current position in MSU?

W: My current research interests focus on the use of social media by enterprises for enhancing collaboration and innovation. This research interest has been expanded to explore how social media can be leveraged in multi-stakeholder contexts, such as scientific advancement in the context of quantitative microbial risk assessment and consumer engagement in the context of social media marketing.


V: How do you see the evolution of the social media throughout the last years? What is the trend that you are seeing?
W: In my social computing and social media classes, one of the key things I try to communicate to my students is that social media actually dates back to the very first bulletin board systems of the 60s and thus is much more than Facebook – which is usually what students think of when they think of social media. Hence, from this perspective, I think the main evolution of social media has been in moving away from being a communication medium for the highly tech savvy (and to some extent for those with the financial means to have dial-up Internet and a computer) to a medium that is available to anyone, anywhere regardless of their level of technical proficiency. With that, I think we have also witnessed a trend away from social media essentially functioning as online communities – i.e., serving groups of people with similar interests or goals – to a much broader platform of human interaction regardless of interests and goals.
The trends I see for the future are primarily in the integration of social media location-based technologies, augmented reality, and smart technologies to enhance the everyday activities and experiences of consumers, educators, students an so on. For instance, I co-lead a study abroad program to Japan and Korea, and their sophisticated integration of social technologies with location-based and augmented reality technologies in shopping malls, airports, and subway stations now still seems futuristic, but I think it will be only a matter of time before we see the widespread adoption of these tools in Europe and North America. As a matter of fact, during one of my last visits to the Athens airport, I was surprised by the virtual assistant (equipped with eye-tracking software) in the arrival hall.


V: What do you know about Agro-Know so far? How was the connection made?
W: Agro-Know is well-known for the development of solutions for supporting scientific and other types of platforms, for supporting research and innovation in the agricultural context. Michigan State University has had prior – very positive – experiences in working with Agro-Know and therefore helped us identify you as the perfect partner in the redesign of our Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) wiki to support multi-stakeholder interacts and authoring.


Dr. Wietske van Osch with Nikos (left) and Giota (right)

Dr. Wietske van Osch with Nikos (left) and Giota (right)


V: From your experience, how important is the representation of an SME like Agro-Know through social media channels?
W: Social media allow SMEs, like Agro-Know, to stand out from the competition, to establish strong brand awareness and reputation,  to create a community of customers, to expand the reach and therewith enhance the growth of their business.


V: If you could provide 3 (short) tips for someone making the best out of social media, what would these be?

  1. Relationships is what it is all about – manage them wisely and respectfully.
  2. Be aware of your audience – especially for corporate users. Social media presents unique opportunities for direct interactions and the provision of tailored content, however, in order to create effective audience engagement, you need to first have a basic understanding of who your audience is, where they are, and their preferred modes of communication and interaction.
  3. Create content that is relevant. This is a tip that does not just apply for publicly available social media, but also for proprietary enterprise social software tools. If you want your audiences to respect you and engage with your content, you need to develop content that is of relevance to them and avoid too much self-referencing.


V: What are you currently working on and what are the next steps that you are planning?
W: My first response is, I have way too many projects to sum up! So let me just share a snapshot of a few of my current projects that may be of relevance. I am currently working on an industry grant funded by Leo Burnett, one of the largest marketing communication agencies, that focuses on effective strategies for social media marketing as well as on disentangling the empirical link between consumer engagement on social media and purchase behaviors toward a brand in the “offline” world. A second project, and one that I am most passionate about, is a long-term collaborative engagement with Steelcase, one of the world leaders in the design and development of office space solution, on the role of enterprise social software in “generative collaboration”, i.e., those collaborative activities focused on generating novel ideas.
My future work will increasingly move away from traditional research methods – e.g., surveys, experiments – and increasingly leverage the power of “big data” to identify patterns in the behavioral data available from large groups of people and interactions. For instance, I recently started collaborating with the Institute for Language and Speech Processing (ILSP) here in Athens to explore the application of machine learning algorithms to social media based datasets in the context of marketing, corporate innovation, as well as counter-terrorism.

It was a pleasure meeting Dr. van Osch and we hope that we will have the opportunity to meet again in the near future!

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