Big Data – What’s New(s)?

The following is a slightly edited version of a talk I gave at the Data Power conference in Sheffield this week, presenting work by myself and Ralph Schroeder.

The question of what drives news coverage far pre-dates the Internet and the rise of social media, and over the decades – or indeed the centuries – of mass media, myriad explanations have been offered in answer. Continue reading “Big Data – What’s New(s)?”

What the Thornberry Affair tells us about politicians online

Published on the the LSE British Politics and Policy blog.

Many commentators have speculated what was going through the mind of Emily Thornberry, the shadow Attorney General, when she tweeted a picture of a terraced Rochester house draped in three England flags and a white van parked in the driveway, with the simple caption ‘Image from Rochester’. Continue reading “What the Thornberry Affair tells us about politicians online”

Why social data isn’t always a reliable indicator

From XKCD

“What social data can tell you: pretty much everything” proclaimed Azeem Azhar, founder of PeerIndex, in a popular post on LinkedIn earlier this week. We can perhaps forgive Azhar the hyperbolic lead-in, but hisarticle as a whole indulges in untrammeled evangelism for social data which obscures much of the nuance and uncertainty regarding what exactly this new source of data can actually tell us about society. Continue reading “Why social data isn’t always a reliable indicator”

“Twitter says…” – Can big social data tell us about public opinion?

coffee house

“Like Noah’s ark, (there was) every kind of creature in every walk of life. They included a town wit, a grave citizen, a worthy lawyer, a worship justice, a reverend nonconformist, and a voluble sailor.”

The above description comes from a history of English coffee houses in the seventeenth century¹, but might just as well apply to the twenty first century’s sites of caffeinated conversation: online social networks. With the rapid uptake of the Internet and the more recent rise to prominence of social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, hundreds of millions of ordinary people – the witty, the worthy, and the decidedly neither – are now connected not only to the web, a source of news, but also to social networks, a source of views. Continue reading ““Twitter says…” – Can big social data tell us about public opinion?”

For misogyny on Twitter, silence is easy – and not very helpful

The continued existence of misogyny in the twenty first century is morally repugnant, and the debate over abuse on Twitter reminds us that misogyny can take many guises and subsist in many different contexts. Yet today’s ‘#TwitterSilence’ – a day-long boycott of Twitter led by prominent female newspaper columnists – is undercut by a misunderstanding of the technological and social environment within which this abuse takes place. Continue reading “For misogyny on Twitter, silence is easy – and not very helpful”