First, it was the Arab Spring. Soon after, #BlackLivesMatter, #Ferguson, #Ayotzinapa, and #Nisman. In the last five years, political conflict has migrated from the streets and into the blogosphere. As social media grows in importance, so does the time and resources that are invested by political parties, political entrepreneurs, social organizations, and lobbyist. The management of politics, and conflict, requires today the dissemination of political narratives among a growing virtual constituency that acquires information through social networks rather than through printed media or in their local communities.
As the importance of social media grows, so do the technical demands that are required to capture data, process information, and reach sensible political conclusions. This seminar, at the intersection of computer science and political science, seeks to provide students with the technical skills to work with social media data as well as the knowledge to interpret relevant information.
The proposed seminar will teach students how to download tweets, create workable datasets, plot social networks, detect communities of users, and identify relevant political discourses. The goal is to ensure that students will be able to both run their own big data analyses and understand the political messages that are being produced by different communities.
Types of Assignments: Students will form work teams to solve practical problems in the collection of social networks’ data. They will use this data to describe political events on real time. Finally, they will produce reports on political events and describe how the tools they develop improve on our understanding of #politicalcrises. Likely assignments are included below (exact assignments will be listed on the course syllabus).
• Connecting to the Twitter API and collecting data.
• Formatting social media data to facilitate big data analyses.
• Creating network representations (igraph) of their data.
• Detecting communities of users and describing their positions in the network.
• Analyzing Tweets and reporting on their dissemination among communities of users.
• Producing technical and political reports using social media data.