GE2015 on social media

Last week we had a sort of social media hackathon in honour of the UK’s election, looking at the reaction generated on social media. We took what I believe was a fairly novel approach to the analysis, by looking at social media reaction to individual candidates in constituencies (rather than just general hashtags or party leaders). The map below shows what the election results would have been if @mentions of these local candidates had been votes

Twitter-election

We are still digesting the data so I’m not yet sure what the main findings are really, though we did get some interesting stuff on the diverging social media “reach” of different candidates, and the way Twitter impact and vote has different relationships depending on the party.

TwitterMentions-line

Check out our full range of work here. More to follow…

TICTEC 2015

A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation at TICTEC, mySociety‘s inaugural research conference on the impact of civic technology. It was an inspiring event with so many presentations from different organisations trying to make a difference in countries all over the world.

TICTeC-logos_general-with-year-263x300

There were a few academics there and hopefully we added some value too. I gave a presentation on a current project we are running with ULB exploring the dynamics of the website lapetition.be.

Threshold Scatter

It was interesting however to see how differently academia and civic tech conceptualise research, with us academics coming in for some stick for taking years to produce research which makes it difficult to integrate into the development of new tools. But there were also lots of good examples of researchers working with civic tech organisations to try out new ways of reaching people or do research on impact – this sort of stuff is the future of political science in my opinion.

Information Seeking Behaviour and Election Predictions

My colleague Taha Yasseri and I recently received a grant from the Fell Fund to extend our work on information seeking behaviour around election time, which has allowed us to bring Eve Ahearn on board on the project. Over the next few months we’re going to be really expanding the amount of elections we cover in the research, and also look at different types of information seeking signal. We’ll also be firing up the project’s research blog which we started up a few months ago. Eve has just put up the first post on subjectivity in data collection.

Measuring Ministerial Career Dynamics

I have a new article out in West European Politics with my colleagues Holger Döring and Conor Little which looks at the career dynamics of ministers in seven European countries over the last 50 or so years. We were interested in factors relating to their stability in the job to a large extent, but also more general things such as how power gradually turns over in most democracies. We find an important diversion in the career trajectories of senior and junior ministers in most countries, with a small core of senior ministers staying in power for long periods of time whilst a larger and more fluid mass of junior ministers move in and out of power more frequently.

WEP

Ministerial careers isn’t a core area of substantive research for me, but there was a fairly extensive computational element to the project which did get me interested. It makes use of the wonderful Parlgov political data structure, which was really useful for both organising collaborative data collection and storing the data.

This project was also my first foray into using SQL seriously for academic research. An SQL database is a wonderfully neat format for organising research projects if you’ve got lots of different types of data which only need to be mashed together for analysis. It does save time on the recombining element as well. But it does create a bit of overhead and I’m still not sure it is in the core computational social science toolkit (unless you are in Hadoop territory with the size of your dataset, in which case the SQL equivalent Hive really comes into it’s own).

Measuring Online News Consumption

Ofcom has just released a report on measuring online news consumption and supply, which I contributed to. It tackles the question of how to meaningfully measure the size of a news outlet’s audience in the digital age. This is a key issue for a regulator, in for example deciding whether to allow a takeover, and it’s also one that’s far from clear now that a lot of news consumption takes place online.

Ofcom - Measuring Online News Consumption and Supply

The report examines all sorts of different metrics which regulators could use, from amount of visitors to the website and time on page to amount of social sharing. It also highlights that while the best metric isn’t clear the detail offered is considerably better than what could be achieved in the offline age, and hence the digital environment also presents the opportunity to really understand audience behaviour as never before.

Read the report here.

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