Emotions, big data archives and new taxonomies

by: K. Tatakis

Emotions not easily traced on Big data indexes, questions over items already missing from our digital archives and new taxonomies voluntarily or involuntarily happening in our digital world is what I will try to explore on this post. Reviewing parts of Graham Meikle’s book on “Social Media: Communication, Sharing and Visibility” (Meikle 2016), I take as an example and eventual case-study every day incidents from social environments which become more and more digital nowadays.

New alternatives, both positive and negative are being opened because of the new apps we now possess in order to solve everyday problems. Smartphones and tablets contributed a lot to the growth of time and scale we stay digitally connected and to the accession of more generations to what is digital communication.

Meikle questions how much previous journalistic patterns like the “inverted pyramid’ are used in this new environment. (Meikle, 2016,p.70). News evolution is in some cases so rapid that describing “when” is not necessarily primordial at least in social media chats, as everything happens in what I would call a prolonged now.

Meikle calls “timeliness” such a trend(Meikle, 2016, p.74).The news are often consumed at almost the same time they are produced. Missing the live development of an event is like missing the opportunity to participate in such a communication debate. It is not any more that meaningful to post something days after, a posteriori. The attention is already transferred somewhere else.

Meikle stays also on another element of the inverted pyramid, the space that “why” can occupy in such a thunderer news coverage.(Meikle, 2016, p.75).

Emotions, Big Data and Taxonomies, Design by: K.Tatakis, December 2016

Why” is not so much covered in a medium like Twitter because of space limitations, but people instead there and elsewhere prefer to describe people or events with adverbs which most commonly have a sense of exaggeration. Chatting through images, the advance of visual communication also sometimes puts “why” aside. Only critical citizens can elaborate meanings, but others just follow what’s buzzy is.

Furthermore it is very hard to be sure about “why” when trying to publish as early as possible. “Details, stories and entire controversies appear as though from nowhere and are replaced without resolution”(Bourdieu 1998 in Meikle, 2016, p.75).

Summaries, influences and buzz without resolution

No item is necessarily more important than others” Meikle notes (Meikle, 2016, p. 70). But the number of clicks, re-tweets or likes creates at the end of the day a new taxonomy of importance of this item compared to other similar items which can influence most people. “The user determines the connections as they make them, through these processes of navigation and search” as the same author suggests (Meikle, 2016, p. 70). The platform managers can also guide the navigation through suggestions, directions (interesting accounts etc. which appear when entering a platform’s “home” page). Even though you can describe that process more help or advice than manipulation, this taxonomy influences choices in many cases.

The user needs a kind of briefing, because the time she/he has to consume news or to explore what’s hapenning is limited. That’s why in today’s media landscape ads about articles or videos and apps like news managers are emerging. News managers offer what is important and thus what’s not. Many mobile phone companies turned on developing news managers, snipping the best articles or videos to watch.

Today we are used to look more infographics which is also can be a review or analysis of fragmented data in a new synthesis. Meikle notices the augmented role of such data in this new era (Meikle,2016, p.71).

The content gets connected with the success of the platform and the ability to grow its users’ base , the eventual stock price (if in a stock exchange) or the ability to attract new investors. If the platform (or the app) fails and goes down, the content disappears, sometimes regardless the value of it.

Of course fragments of these items remain in places like Internet Archive and it’s initiative The WayBack Machine which made a tremendous work of rescue. But in a search about South European digital newspapers in the nineties’ you can see that often just samples and portions (not the whole content of these media) where rescued. A part of our digital past has already vanished in some cases…

New initiatives on Big Data

Will in the future big data collectors maintain every bit of data (or information) produced? The more the base of news producers’ expands, the most difficult will be to safeguard such bases for any reason. Thus questions of choice will rise again. Prices of data storage devices are going down, but on the meanwhile digital data produced are multiplied at a blistering speed.

In Europe new initiatives are taking place in such a context, like Big Data Europe in order to connect new technology opportunities with communities and private companies. Bonding experts and citizens (and individuals’ needs) will be critical to the success of such an initiative. My opinion is that EU should listen more to individuals’ demands (not necessarily only through their representatives, but at a personal level) in order to remain popular.

Initiatives like The Linux Foundation’s summit Apache Big Data Europe” in Spain, #ApacheBigData also took place recently. But the big challenge remains. How to categorize things not expressed either visually or verbally?..

As I was typing this thought I found out that new projects come in life in this domain. Like the EU funded Mixed Emotions, a project managed by Dr. Paul Buitelaar and coordinated by the NUIGalway university. Scientists have already acknowledged the need to combine emotions and big data in order to create better understanding and I think that gives signs of optimism about the future.


Bourdieu, Paul (1998) On Television, New York: The New Press.

Meikle, Graham (2016). Social Media: Communication, Sharing and Visibility, New York – Oxon, Routledge.

NUIG – Dr. Paul Buitelaar (project manager)(2016). Mixed Emotions http://mixedemotions-project.eu/

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