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'Big Data'

Four New Chapters on the Challenges of Doing Twitter Research

One more post before I head home from the AoIR 2015 conference in Phoenix: during the conference, I also received my author’s copy of Hashtag Publics, an excellent new collection edited by Nathan Rambukkana. In this collection, Jean Burgess and I published an updated version of our paper from the ECPR conference in Reykjavík, which conceptualises (some) hashtag communities as ad hoc publics – and Theresa Sauter and I also have a chapter in the book that explores the #auspol hashtag for Australian politics.

Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess. “Twitter Hashtags from Ad Hoc to Calculated Publics.” In Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks, ed. Nathan Rambukkana. New York: Peter Lang, 2015. 13-28.

Theresa Sauter and Axel Bruns. “#auspol: The Hashtag as Community, Event, and Material Object for Engaging with Australian Politics.” In Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks, ed. Nathan Rambukkana. New York: Peter Lang, 2015. 47-60.

Moving beyond First-Person Platform Studies

Finally in this AoIR 2015 session, we move on to Greg Elmer, one of the editors of Compromised Data: From Social Media to Big Data. His contribution is focussed on the practice of collecting data from social media sites, some of which is done using some very simple Web scraping tools (as Edward Snowden did at the NSA, apparently).

Reverse-Engineering Social Media Platforms

The next speaker in the Compromised Data session at AoIR 2015 is Robert Gehl, whose focus is on the effects of corporate social media. There is a conflict between the critiques of proprietary social media spaces and the obvious pleasures of using social media; what do we do about this?

Easy Data, Hard Data, Compromised Data

My QUT DMRC colleague Jean Burgess and I are next at AoIR 2015, presenting the core points from our chapter "Easy Data, Hard Data" in the Compromised Data collection. (The slides are below.) The chapter thinks through the pragmatics and politics of being social media researchers in a complex and precarious environment, and thus builds on David Berry's work on the computational turn in humanities and social science research.

When Data Are Compromised by Politics

The next speaker at AoIR 2015 is Joanna Redden, another contributor to the Compromised Data: From Social Media to Big Data collection. She focusses especially on how data are being used by governments, and how this impacts particularly on issues of poverty and inequality. Her work is based on interviews with public servants and consultants in Canada, and builds a picture of how and where data are being used in the government.

Big Data, Compromised Data?

The final panel at AoIR 2015 for today is the Compromised Data panel, celebrating the release of the book of the same name. Ganaele Langlois starts us off by highlighting the key themes of the book: data are now crucial to building the social, and the gaps and omissions in the data therefore have very significant impacts.

Understanding How Ordinary Users Comprehend Data Visualisations

The final speaker in this session at AoIR 2015 is Helen Kennedy, whose interest is in how people interact with data visualisations. This is very important in the context of the current datafication trend. But existing literature in this field lacks a user-centred knowledge base – much is driven by designers' instincts of what constitutes a good data visualisation. It mobilises narrow definitions and measures of effectiveness and provides little information about participants, while ignoring social and cultural factors.

The Problems with Gathering Data from Weibo

The second speaker on this AoIR 2015 session is QUT DMRC PhD researcher Jing Zeng, whose focus is on the challenges associated with accessing data from popular Chinese social media platform Weibo. Weibo, meaning 'micro-blog' in Chinese, is a Chinese take on social media services such as Twitter. Sina Weibo is now the most successful of such services in China, with several hundred million users now present on the site.

Understanding How Researchers Are Envisaging Big Data

The final presenter at AoIR 2015 today is Anissa Tanweer, whose interest is in the shift towards big data. This has been a major buzzword, and has enabled the rise of data science; her team has conducted an ethnography of the data science environment.

Scientists' Attitudes towards Data Sharing

The next session at AoIR 2015 is starting with Catherine Brooks, whose interest is in scientific collaboration: how do scientists organise themselves and manage their data? This is an increasingly crucial question in (big) data-enabled science. One problem is that of dark data – unused, overlooked, rejected data from past research projects, which could be placed on cloud-based storage platforms to make them useful again.


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