Project summary

As the volume of electronically available information continues to grow rapidly, blogs are increasingly being used in the public sphere as sources of information. Thus the blogosphere is becoming an archetypal example of how social networks play a crucial role in mediating the flow of information between individuals and organizations.

Interestingly, the blogosphere is both a social network and a network of texts. It is an important research challenge to understand the relationship between the two types of network, and the interplay between the social processes realised in blogs, the flow of information and opinion formation. Furthermore, when someone is searching for information from social media, it is not sufficient for their search tools to provide relevant information: it is also important for tools to provide a balanced view on a topic and to help users understand more about the source of statements, so they can evaluate them properly.

This project will develop methods and tools to detect, analyse and visualize the distribution, flow and development of knowledge and opinions across online social networks. In broad terms, our approach synthesizes techniques from computational linguistics, network analysis and information visualization, which will enjoy a synergistic relationship with social science theories and models of information diffusion and uptake.

The primary objective of this project is to develop methods to automatically generate visualizations that show the social and epistemological contexts of information disseminated in online social networks, specifically blogs.¬†Our approach includes two principal innovations. Firstly, information is to be characterised by ‘key statements’, rather than keywords, in order to better capture the content of discussions and different opinions. Secondly, the techniques to analyse and visualize online discussions will synthesize data about the network of texts and data about social networks.

Tools will be developed with regards to two sets of users: (i) general users who want to access information from the blogosphere and engage in discussions; (ii) media monitors and social scientists who want to analyse information flow and related social processes. We will concentrate on the Norwegian and English-language blogospheres, specifically around the topics of climate change and tablet technology.