Oct 14

Twitter and the MDGs

To test the hypothesis whether social media in the form of blog posts and twitter have any influence on the discourses of international development, Tobias Denskus and Daniel E. Esser collected tweets and blogposts related to the Millennium Development Goals during a period in 2010. By analysing tweets and blog posts around the UN High-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals held in 2010 the authors gained insights in how social media is used in relation to high level conferences. Their conclusion, as presented in an article in the Third World Quarterly[1], is that the social media sphere failed to bring forward alternative agendas
and priorities, and rather reinforced the current ideas around international development. Their analysis of tweets also showed that a majority of tweeters were closely related to organisations part of the MDG work, such as Save the Children or Amnesty International. Denskus and Esser used the service www.topsy.com for their analysis and performed searches on the hashtag (#) MDG for every hour during the High-level conference. Three years after said conference, on September 25th 2013, the President of the UN General Assembly held a follow-up meeting to take stock of the situation with the MDG:s. Using a similar method to Denskus and Esser, I intended to test whether Continue reading →

Oct 14

2014 and the Ministry of Truth | Newspeak: Minitrue

Abigail Leffler says Big Data Brother… one bit at a time

ICT (Internet communications technology) enables gathering of digital data derived from our online interactions and other iterations such as those that come from GPS (Global Positioning System)-equipped devices. This interactivity being ‘a necessary condition for social, cultural and political participation’ (Lievrouw: 2013, p. 15) functions as a catalyst for change, development and humanitarian relief.

Just consider that all the tweets, blogposts and Facebook entries generate big data and so do all the ‘likes’ and endorsements and any other information pointing to user connection networks and to activity levels of individuals on the Net.

To give you an idea of how large big data actually is, every minute of every day we create

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Oct 14

Big, BIG, Data Warbles

Abigail Leffler perchs on the development branch and broods over the content analysis of multilingual tweets and posts

Any collection of signs systematically arranged (or the absence thereof) can be read and interpreted. Edgar Allan Poe’s A Dream within a Dream, Edvard Munch’s The Scream painting, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a tiger’s territorial markings in the Amur region, mobile phone traffic in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and all the electronic footprints we ever leave behind by virtue of our Internet usage are examples of this. The key point is that, in our search for patterns or for elements that maintain or break patterns in a sample, we are searching for clues to predicting behaviour or finding trends and hidden messages.

Now for the sake of simplicity and to keep true to the title of this post, let us alight on the analysis and derivation of meaning (a.k.a. interpretation) of our Internet footprints. Let us, furthermore, focus on blogging and microblogging in the context of communication for development.

How do we analyse data from blogs and microblogs? We could be looking at quantitative methods such as collecting the amount of tweets and posts and the frequency thereof, and further we could be looking at the geographical distribution of such entries or at the speed at which they come during or after an event. We could consider which entries are the most influential within a specific period of time. We could also be looking into the qualitative content of such data, and we could be looking into a keyword analysis to gauge sentiments or determine key topics in discourse. And now let us expand on this last point. What are the caveats we need to bear in mind when the analysis is conducted within a globalised, multicultural environment, and where tweets and posts come in forms as diverse as chatter, clucks, quacks, chirps, hoots, coos and caws?

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Oct 14

Open Data: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Abigail Leffler defines and explores the significance of open data used in new and social media in the context of development and social change.

That Gutenberg moment

‘We live in a Gutenberg moment,’ announces Nadine Schuurman, ‘in which we are migrating from book reading to Internet browsing’ (Schuurman: 2013, p. 372). And ever since Johannes Gutenberg and his printing press idea, adds Michael Mandiberg, ‘technological innovations have enabled the dissemination of more and more media forms over broader and broader audiences’ (Mandiberg: 2012, p. 1). Indeed the implications of the Internet phenomenon are far-reaching.

With the advent of Web 2.0 (O’Reilly: 2004, in Mandiberg: 2012, p.2), new forms of communication have emerged. New media (of which social media is a subset) is non-linear, interactive, peer-to-peer in nature. This means that we no longer live in a model where a few dictate what the rest consume: we have become both producers and consumers of online information, and social media in particular provides the infrastructure that facilitates this information sharing. Mandiberg notes that ‘at the end of this first decade of the twenty-first century, the line between media producers and consumers has blurred, and the unidirectional broadcast has partially fragmented into many kinds of multidirectional conversations’ (Mandiberg: 2012, p. 1).

A cacophony of voices

Media participation has thus become part of media consumption. This interactivity is ‘a necessary condition for social, political and cultural participation’ (Lievrouw: 2011, p. 13), making new media an ideal catalyst for social change. The result from this variety of inputs is, as expected, a cacophony of voices singing to us through instruments as diverse as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, the mobile Internet (mobile phones) and YouTube, to name a few. Cacophony may be a disturbing sound but it definitely sets the tone for development and social change. Acknowledgement of dissenting voices leads to democracy at least, and to social change at most.

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Sep 14

Hello world!

This is a test