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WORKSHOP: An Intro to the Digital Research Methods

  • 18.10.2022
  • Aarhus (Denmark)

Registration is closed

This workshop is part of the series of pre-conferences organised within 9th European Communication Conference (ECC) in Aarhus on 19-22 October 2022. The aim of the full-day meeting of ECREA members is to discuss various ways how to do research. The workshop consists of four sessions, each is dedicated to one particular method and run by a different speaker. However, we kindly ask you to participate in all four parts.

This workshop is intended for ECREA members and is free.

Please register as soon as possible, the number of places is limited.

9.00-11.00 A first look into web scraping (Janne Nielsen, Aarhus University)

This workshop offers an introduction to web scraping, i.e. data extraction from websites. Starting with a brief introduction to the fundamental characteristics of websites, we will talk about the basic principles of web scraping and how the source code and the structure of a webpage frame the possibilities for scraping web content. The workshop will present a few different ways of extracting data from the web, from scraping a few specific elements from a web page to harvesting entire websites. We will talk about common challenges and how different approaches and tools are suitable for different purposes. The participants will be able to try their hand at using some simple tools, focusing mostly on extracting text. No specific skills or previous experience with web scraping or programming is needed - just curiosity about the method! The workshop is meant as an inspiration, offering a first look at web scraping as a method as well as useful insights into the challenges and benefits of web scraping.

11.00-11.15 coffee break

11.15-13.15 Automated Content Analysis with R (Cornelius Puschmann, Bremen University)

How do politically charged concepts change over time? What topics are covered in press articles on the financial crisis? What attitudes do users express on right-wing populist Facebook pages? How emotional are political discourses on Twitter? Computer-assisted methods for the analysis of text data are increasingly gaining importance within the social sciences. Techniques such as dictionary analysis, but also sentiment analysis, and the support of quantitative content analysis with machine learning methods, are useful tools for the investigation of research questions within communication and media research, but also in political science and sociology. Large data sets can be systematically evaluated with these and other methods, but this requires a combination of different skills, ranging from adequate sampling of data and its storage, to the selection of meaningful analysis methods and the appropriate interpretation of the results. Aims: This workshop provides an brief hands-on overview of key methods in automatic text analysis procedures based on the statistical open source programming environment R (www.r-project.org) and the R package quanteda (quanteda.io). The course combines a condensed methodological introduction to text analysis (For which questions are computer-aided procedures suitable? How to develop a research project?) with a demonstration of central applications to datasets provided by the instructor. Programming knowledge is not strictly required, knowledge of R will make it easier to get started. Basic knowledge of empirical data collection and statistics are assumed as well. Organization: The class will provide brief presentations on key concepts with a code sprint in which two key methods (sentiment analysis and topic modeling) will be demonstrated and applied to different example data sets.

13.15-14.00 lunch (self-serving)

14.00-16.00 Social Media Analytics: From Raw Data to Engagement Metrics

(Axel Bruns, Queensland University of Technology)

This data analytics and visualisation workshop introduces a number of standard tools and methods for large-scale data analytics, using Twitter data to illustrate these approaches. The workshop introduces participants to the open-source Twitter Capture and Analysis Toolkit (TCAT) as a capable and reliable tool for data gathering from the Twitter API, and to the high-end data analytics software Tableau as a powerful means of processing and visualising large datasets. The skills gained in the workshop are also transferrable to working with other large datasets from social media and other sources. The workshop is suitable for participants new to working with social media datasets, and as a refresher for more experienced users.

16.00-16.15 cofee break

16.15-18.15 Research imagination for digital mixed-method research (Salla-Maaria Laaksonen University of Helsinki)

This workshop introduces different strategies for incorporating digital and computational methods in mixed-method settings. A mixed-methods strategy can harness the strengths of each method while offsetting their respective weaknesses. During the workshop, we will use examples from existing research projects to discuss the possibilities and risks of different method combinations, covering for example digital ethnography, network analysis, and computational content analysis. Most importantly, the workshop aims to develop the participants’ digital research imagination and mixed-method thinking to create meaningful and feasible research strategies for digital communication research. The workshop includes practical and speculative exercises to help participants to explore the potential method combinations for their own research topics. Previous experience with digital methods is not required, but attending the other workshops in this session will be highly useful.

LECTURER BIOS

Janne Nielsen is Associate Professor of Digital Media History at the Department of Media and Journalism Studies, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University (AU). She is on the board of the Centre for Internet Studies (AU), a member of The Centre for Digital Methods and Media (AU) and the Center for Digital History Aarhus (AU), and part of DIGHUMLAB (AU), where she is head of LARM.fm (a community and research infrastructure for the study of radio and television and related materials) and part of NetLab (a community and research infrastructure for the study of internet materials). She is engaged in the international research networks RESAW and WARCnet, which focuses on studies of archived web. Her research interests include media history, web historiography, web archiving, web tracking and issues related to privacy and consent online, cross media, and public service media.

Cornelius Puschmann is Professor of Communication and Media Studies with a focus on Digital Communication at ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Bremen and an affiliate researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research in Hamburg. In 2012, Cornelius was awarded a four-year personal grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for the project „Networking, visibility, information: a study of digital genres of scholarly communication and the motives of their users“ at the Berlin School of Library and Information Science (BSLIS). From 2015 to 2016 he also served as visiting professor of digital communication at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen. From March to October 2016 served as a project leader at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) in Berlin as part of the project “Networks of Outrage”, funded by the VolkswagenStiftung under its data journalism funding scheme. From 2016 to 2019 he was a senior researcher and coordinator of the postdoc research group Algorithmed Public Spheres (APS) at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research in Hamburg. Cornelius has been a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford’s Oxford Internet Institute, a faculty associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, and a visiting assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Media Studies. His interests include digital media usage, online aggression, the role of algorithms for the selection of media content, and automated content analysis. He has written a popular German-language introduction to content analysis with R which sorely needs updating.

Axel Bruns is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Professor in the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society. His books include Are Filter Bubbles Real? (2019) and Gatewatching and News Curation: Journalism, Social Media, and the Public Sphere (2018), and the edited collections Digitizing Democracy (2019), the Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics (2016), and Twitter and Society (2014). His current work focusses on the study of user participation in social media spaces, and its implications for our understanding of the contemporary public sphere, drawing especially on innovative new methods for analysing 'big social data'. He served as President of the Association of Internet Researchers in 2017–19. His research blog is at http://snurb.info/,. and he tweets at snurb_dot_info.

Salla-Maaria Laaksonen, (D.Soc.Sc. Docent) is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Consumer Society Research, University of Helsinki. Her research areas are technology, organizations, and new media, including social evaluation of organizations in the hybrid media system, the organizing of online social movements, and the use of data and algorithms in organizations. She is also an expert in digital and computational research methods and social media research.

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