The University of Reading’s workshop on “Big Social Data: Interdisciplinary Analytics”

The University of Reading’s workshop on “Big Social Data: Interdisciplinary Analytics” was held last week, with funding contributions from the University’s RETF and the Dept. of English and Applied Linguistics (DELAL), Henley Business School (HBS), School of Politics, Economics and International Relations (SPEIR) and School of Systems Engineering (SSE). The workshop was organised by academics from Economics, Linguistics, Systems Engineering and Real Estate & Planning. The purpose of this day-long workshop was to bring together researchers who work with big social media data in different areas of Computational and Social Sciences including Politics, Economics, International Relations and Computational Linguistics to present and discuss the latest research, developments and future research agenda. With a mix of external and internal speakers, the workshop was attended by more than 40 researchers from several subject areas. The discussions centred around uses, opportunities and challenges of social media analysis anchoring on the upcoming UK General Election 2015.
The amount of social media data available is increasing at a phenomenal rate, presenting both opportunities and challenges for research. Social media platforms which capture and quantify everyday life constitute a particularly interesting segment of big data. Mining and analysing this “big social data” allows us to investigate a number of important questions in Social Sciences. Big social data also present a huge methodological challenge – the collection and processing necessary for analysis.
With an introduction from Professor Steven Mithen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Reading, Dr James Reade (Economics) and Dr Giuseppe Di Fatta (Computer Science, Systems Engineering) discussed about the University’s Big Social Data Research Group’s work on analysing tweets generated around the recent public election debates. Mr Alex Krasodomski-Jones from the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos, followed on with an excellent discussion of the social media analytic platforms and discussed the potential uses at length, finishing with an important discussion on ethical issues surrounding social media data. Dr Jonathan Bright, from the Oxford Internet Institute presented research study using information from Wikipedia, attempting to predict election outcomes using the number of page views a party receives.
The post-lunch sessions started with an innovative modelling approach on social network analysis from Dr Danica Vukadinovic Greetham (Mathematics). In the second session of the afternoon, Dr Diana Maynard from the University of Sheffield introduced a natural language processing tool called GATE. The workshop was concluded with a critical discussion of emerging issues, challenges and opportunities led by Dr Sylvia Jaworska (Applied Linguistics) and Dr Anupam Nanda (Henley Business School). Please follow our group’s activities and commentaries on this blog.

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