PROFESSOR FREELON’S PAPER AND TALK WILL DOCUMENT the initial findings of a project aimed at exploring the roles of social media in the new anti-police brutality movement spearheaded by #Blacklivesmatter. He and his colleagues have brought together a large-scale computational analysis of Twitter data, website link data, and depth interviews to understand how #Blacklivesmatter's uses of social media accord with the latest theories in this area as well as how they compare to other prominent protest use cases.
Excerpt: "Every party to a conversation within a social media space is involved in power negotiations, whether they are aware of it or not. The simple act of sharing one party’s message rather than another’s contributes to this process. The narratives and perspectives that spread farthest stand the greatest chance of persuading the unconverted, being broadcast through mass media channels, and reaching elites with the power to implement the desired changes. This in turn suggests that when researchers seek to measure social movements’ power online, they should not focus solely on the movement itself. Instead, they should look to the broader set of actors and interests involved in the conversation and measure each one’s power."
DEEN FREELON is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC. His primary research interests lie in the changing relationships between technology and politics, and encompass the study of weblogs, online forums, social media, and other forms of interactive media with political applications. His papers have ranged from Twitter analysis relating to the Arab Spring to research on youth and media. Among his areas of interest is the emerging field of “sentiment analysis” — analysis of social media data — in the service of social science research. He is an advocate of having more collaborative projects between traditional social science researchers and researchers who specialize in computational analysis, or Big Data studies. He is also the co-author of a new study, Beyond the Hashtags, whose results have been featured on NPR and other outlets.
Co-sponsored by the Annenberg School for Communication.