A few weeks back I started exploring potential methodologies for discourse analysis in my PhD. I’m interested in using twitter as a source of data to understand the relationship between place and discourse and perhaps as a research tool in itself. As a twitter research novice, I got lots of advice from fellow tweeters about how twitter can be used with links to their research and examples demonstrating immediately the potential usefulness of social media for the student. Here is a quick summary of what I found:
Reading the riots
For the researcher, twitter as @jonhickman pointed out is very rich source of data with the views and idea of thousands of people circulating at any one time. @flygirltwo sent me a link to her work in a project which used data from twitter (2.6million tweets) to understand the reasons behind the riots in the summer of 2011. Reading the Riots is a piece of work led by The Guardian and the London School of Economics and full information about this project including the use of twitter can be found here with links to some impressive graphics to illustrate the spread of rumours about the riots, generated by The Guardian. This research looks particularly at the role of individual tweeters in spreading information (both real and erroneous) about the riots.
The role of twitter in an emergency
Tweeters also pointed me in the direction of a report by researchers at the Centre of Excellence for Creative industries and Innovation (CCI) led by @snurb_dot_info. This work explored how social media had been used to disseminate information during the 2011 Queensland floods in Australia. Like the Reading the riots project, the research analysed tweet data, particularly focusing on the use of twitter by the Queensland Police Service during the crisis using the hashtag #qldfloods. The CCI report is an engaging read and I found the sections on existing research which document the rise of twitter in social research particularly interesting. They describe how a number of new research areas are emerging in relation to how social media is impacting upon our lives. From the use of twitter to “harvest civilian sentiment” to the emerging theme of “collaborative resilience” where “technology users respond to disruptions of their life during a crisis (e.g. the use of their cars, workplaces, or even homes), leading to a greater reliance on IT and collaborative networks” (CCI 2011).
Other links for twitter research
B Hunter @socialBedia tweeted that they’d used twitter to undertake their MA thesis which analysed tweets about museums for patterns of interaction & content analysis, again using twitter as a source of data. The data can be organised and analysed using tools like rowfeeder. @SocialBedia has a usefulwebsite with links on the blog page to the latest ideas in using social media in business development and particularly for engaging with new and existing audiences in the creative and cultural sector
But if you are not interested in analysing big data, then its probably worth speaking to @jonhickman and @stinelomborg who work qualitatively with small data using ethnographic research design and interviews. However, in general with regard to using social media, its worth heeding @johnhickman’s advice which was “don’t forget what is not happening on Twitter”.
I’ve only scratched the surface of twitter research but I’m looking forward to exploring these and many other thoughts on Discourses of Place at a #popupseminar with @garethmorris @jennacondie @odobob @yasminah_b @annkol and @lovestoke.