#SRAconf: social media in social research

The Social Research Association‘s conference on 24 June explored the value of socme to social researchers. The SRA is a membership body, have to admit to being a bit vague about what a social researcher is, but never mind. Twitter: @TheSRAOrg.


Storify from social network reporter @commutiny (and reportto follow, plus one from Eoghan O’Neill bringing up some useful points:

  • a ‘perception of privacy’ – platform specific? are users on Twitter more aware of their content being public than Facebook users? to what extent do people change their content and tone from platform to platform?
  • researching ‘issues’ – which issues are people  bothered enough about to talk about online; things that are controversial, fun, funny, cool, sexy, rapidly progressing, modern, topical or just generally interesting
  • difference between online and offline personas
  • even ‘elite’ users of twitter only use hashtags 60% of the time; using hashtags for research may miss crucial info
  • types of user – apprehensive passives, confident cavaliers, controlling cautionaries, savvy opinionators…

A report from a research consultancy has also popped up.

@Flygirltwo tweeted a Bluenod SNA of #SRAconf tweets. I’d forgotten about Bluenod. Quite fun, but not sure it tells you that much really, particularly as it only looks at the last (?) 300 tweets. Comparing #SRAconf with hot topic #letr, the latter is much more dispersed, as you might perhaps expect from a topic as opposed to an event:

#letr visuaised by Bluenod

Text mining workshop at #or2012

A workshop on text mining was held on 9 July at Open Repositories 2012. Below are some key points from the +/- 12o subhashtagged tweets. The session was avidly live tweeted by @criticalsteph, and proceedings will be published in. due. course.


Further sessions covered legal and ethical issues, for example (largely verbatim from tweets):

  • for mailing lists, is harvesting addresses legal, who owns the content?
  • copyright, contracts for resources, TOS, paywall, privacy and data protection law can all be barriers
  • shifting sands – law is dynamic, and changing; many see money in text/data mining, which can be a catalyst to rapid change
  • UK govt says non-commercial research can be an exception, although this must be done on larger scale with EU agreements
  • databases allow private order to be applied – lets publishers opt out of the text mining exception. Publishers want to keep control!
  • data/text mining could be maybe treated as an index? Author needs protection – maybe? There *is* an issue of author rights.
  • Is student author copyright being ignored in plagerism s/ware e.g. Turnitin? Legal challenge = no in USA. Unclear.
  • Privacy and Data Protection UK – sensible steps to follow, quite clear & can be used in text mining without problems BUT need to do a personalisation data minimisation risk assessment on this to show intent.

Key text mining resources:


  • discipline specific research – bound to be lots of law stuff about
  • techniques – sentiment analysis/subjectivity analysis, opinion mining, affect analysis, metaphor analysis
  • approaches – metadata extraction, categorisation, summarisation
  • text mining over the social web – community detection, timelines
  • legal aspects

Ethics in social media research: #nsmnss tweetchat

Update, March 2014: more from NSMNSS on ethics: NatCen research and findings, Janet Salmon’s research, tweetchat held 11 March. See NSMSNSS’ thinking ethically questionnaire for a useful overview of the issues.

On 17 July NSMNSS held a tweetchat on ethics in social media research, prior to a f2f knowledge exchange event on 24 July (programme).

Two pre-chat blog posts announced the tweetchat and how to join. Nice idea, using virtual prior to a f2f event. I downloaded and scanned the +/- 186 tweets during the chat – some interesting stuff there, if disjointed. Transcript uploaded the next morning, with the advice to “scroll down to the bottom of this post and read back up to follow the debate”…hmm it’s not that hard to re-order tweets in a spreadsheet. And how about a light edit, with collated responses to the questions, social tweets removed and thrown into Storify?

It would be interesting to analyse a tweetchat – what are the ethics there then?

The debate can be taken forward on the NSMNSS Methodspace presence, maybe here.

Questions for discussion at the 24 July event:

  • Understanding our digital identities: What is the ‘case’ in social media research? Do our digital identities and behaviours vary to our offline identities? How does this affect the ethics of social media research?
  • Different platforms? Different ethics? What about the ethics of the platform providers? Do researchers have different ethical responsibilities on different platforms?
  • Public and private data – Are public profiles available for research? What ethical responsibilities do we have?
  • Drawing together key messages for ethical guidelines: Exploring existing frameworks, identifying gaps and additions.

For more see Farida Vis on ethics (video | slides) from the first #nsmnss event and a post on ethical issues in conducting research in online communities (published 22 July). Plus, from a non-academic perspective, Storyful on the ethics of livetweeting overheard conversations.