Conducting research on the impact of large projects and events is difficult as each undertaking is unique. Traditional quantitative techniques face limitations of internal validity while qualitative research faces challenges of external validity. However, projects and events generate a massive amount of social media traffic that can be used to understand stakeholder interactions before, during and after delivery. In addition to research, they also provide an avenue to enhance teaching and learning activities as students can collect social media data to apply new research techniques such as text mining. At Bournemouth university, we’ve launched a project called Festim that aims to develop research and teaching using data from social media networks.
For research, the initial objective is to enable the evaluation of social impacts, an area that is difficult to assess using conventional qualitative and quantitative approaches. In the teaching domain, we wish to develop Reusable Learning Objects that can guide future graduate researchers seeking to apply social media data. We also wish to widen the range of research options available to undergraduate students to include social media analysis.
We were fortunate to get a trial enterprise subscription to DiscoverText, which we used to support all of these activities. For research, DiscoverText enables us to understand the online narratives around events on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. So far, we have been able to create a taxonomy that compares festivals by online stakeholder engagement. Our team is also exploring the nature of discussions that generate engagement across multiple platforms. We’ve used DiscoverText to uncover the nature of the temporary communities of interest that are created on Social Media from the discussions around festivals.
Undergraduate researchers have also deployed DiscoverText. One student has used the platform to compare the impact of music events while another has explored how social media is used to recruit volunteers. For teaching, our students have been using DiscoverText to understand the content of discussions on Facebook pages of case study companies as a way of illuminating current issues.