More rundown on Academedia

So I promised more on Academedia (note: they will add more video and visual resources to the Academedia website in the next few days)…

First, some of Robert Cannon’s (employed with the FCC and a member of Panel B “New Media: A closer look at what works”) insightful gems

Re: internet “a participatory market of free speech”

Re: kids& social media “It’s not a question of whether kids are writing. Kids are writing all the time. It’s whether parents understand that.”

“The issue is not whether to use Wikipedia, but how to use Wikipedia”
Next, the final panel, “Digital Tools for Communication:”
Hitlin (Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism)
People communicate differently about issues on different kinds of media sources.
Re: Trayvon Martin case –> largest issue by media source

  •      Twitter: 21% Outrage @ Zimmerman
  •      Cable & Talk radio: 17% Gun control legislation
  •      Blogs: 15% Role of race

Re: Crimson Hexagon
Pew is different, because they’re in a partnership with Crimson Hexagon to measure trends in Traditional media sources. Also because their standard of error is much higher, and they have a team of hand coders available.

Crimson Hexagon is different, because it combines human coding with machine learning to develop algorithms. It may actually overlap pretty intensely with some of the traditional qualitative coding programs that allow for some machine learning. I can imagine that this feature would appeal especially to researchers who are reluctant to fully embrace machine coding, which is understandable, given the current state of the art. I wonder if, by hosting their users instead of distributing programs, they’re able to store and learn from the codes developed by the users?

CH appears to measure two main domains: topic volume over time and topic sentiment over time. Users get a sense of recall and precision in action as they work with the program, by seeing the results of additions and subtractions to a search lexicon. Through this process, Hitlin got a sense of the meat of the problems with text analysis. He said that it was difficult to find examples that neatly fit into boxes, and that the computer didn’t have an eye for subtlety or things that fit into multiple categories. What he was commenting about was the nature of language in action, or what sociolinguists call Discourse! Through the process of categorizing language, he could sense how complicated it is. Here I get to reiterate one of the main points of this blog: these problems are the reason why linguistics is a necessary aspect of this process. Linguistics is the study of patterns in language, and the patterns we find are inherently different from the patterns we expect to find. Linguistics is a small field, one that people rarely think of. But it is critically essential to a high quality analysis of communication. In fact, we find, when we look for patterns in language, that everything in language is patterned, from its basic morphology and syntax, to its many variations (which are more systematic than we would predict), to methods like metaphor use and intertextuality, and more.

Linguistics is a key, but it’s not a simple fit. Language is patterned in so many ways that linguistics is a huge field. Unfortunately, the subfields of linguistics divide quickly into political and educational camps. It is rare to find a linguist trained in cognitive linguistics, applied linguistics and discourse analysis, for example. But each of these fields are necessary parts of text analysis.

Just as this blog is devoted to knocking down borders in research methods, it is devoted to knocking down borders between subfields and moving forward with strategic intellectual partnerships.

This next speaker in the panel thoroughly blew my mind!

Rami Khater from Al Jazeera English talked about the generation of ‘The Stream,’ an Al Jazeera program that is entirely driven by social media analysis.

Rami can be found on Twitter: @ramisms , and he shared a with resources from his talk:

The goal of The Stream is to be “a voice of the voiceless,” by monitoring how the hyperlocal goes global. Rami gave a few examples of things we never would have heard about without social media. He showed how hash tags evolve, by starting with competing tags, evolving and changing, and eventually converging into a trend (incidentally, Rami identified the Kony 2012 trend as synthetic from the get go by pointing that there was no organic hashtag evolution. It simply started and nded as #Kony2012). He used TrendsMap to show a quick global map of currently trending hashtags. I put a link to TrendsMap on the tools section of the links on this blog, and I strongly encourage you to experiment with it. My daughter and I spent some time looking at it today, and we found an emerging conversation in South Africa about black people on the Titanic. We followed this up with another tool, Topsy, which allowed us to see what the exact conversation was about. Rami gets to know the emerging conversations and then uses local tools to isolate the genesis of the trend and interview people at its source. Instead, my daughter and I looked at WhereTweeting to see what the people around us are tweeting about. We saw some nice words of wisdom from Iyanla Vanzant that were drowning in what appeared to me to be “a whole bunch of crap!” (“Mom-mmy, you just used the C word!”)

Anyway, the tools that Rami shared are linked over here —->

I encourage you to play around with them, and I encourage you and me both to go check out the recent Stream interview with Ai Wei Wei!

The final speaker on the panel was Karine Megerdoomian from MITRE. I have encountered a few people from MITRE recently at conferences, and I’ve been impressed with all of them! Karine started with some words that made my day:

“How helpful a word cloud is is basically how much work you put into it”

EXactly! Great point, Karine! And she showed a particularly great word cloud that combined useful words and phrases into a single image. Niiice!

Karine spoke a bit about MITRE’s efforts to use machine learning to identify age and gender among internet users. She mentioned that older users tended to use noses in their smilies 🙂 and younger users did not 🙂 . She spoke of how older Iranian users tended to use Persian morphology when creating neologisms, and younger users tended to use English, and she spoke about predicting revolutions and seeing how they are propagated over time.

After this point, the floor was opened up for questions. The first question was a critically important one for researchers. It was about representativeness.

The speakers pointed out that social media has a clear bias toward English speakers, western educated people, white, mail, liberal, US & UK. Every network has a different set of flaws, but every network has flaws. It is important not to just use these analyses as though they were complete. You simply have to go deeper in your analysis.


There was a bit more great discussion, but I’m going to end here. I hope that other will cover this event from other perspectives. I didn’t even mention the excellent discussions about education and media!


3 thoughts on “More rundown on Academedia

  1. Pingback: What do all of these polling strategies add up to? « Free Range Research

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