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Social listening in the past, present and future – University of Reading

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Social listening in the past, present and future

We are creating new data about ourselves at an alarming rate. 90% of the world's data was created in the last two years, according to IBM.

But how prepared are researchers in the humanities to confront an era when nearly everything that is thought or said is recorded for posterity?

We need more than just the quantitative, number-crunching approaches associated with 'Big Data'. We urgently need to develop new qualitative methods to interpret the vast databases created by social media such as Twitter and YouTube.

These digital spaces are increasingly the medium of choice where civil society debates contested politics. Scholars and practitioners need to engage with them fully to gain direct and unprecedented insights into people's direct involvement in global events.

About the project

How are the contours of historical memory being shaped in the digital era? Often providing the 'first draft' of history, social media provides an exciting and ever expanding database those engaged in the writing of recent history or ongoing political debates.

Historians, social scientists and government practitioners want to use this data qualitatively to understand popular narrations and contestations of recent events, but they are struggling to exploit this vast resource base for which they have little experience or relevant skills.

Bringing together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, non-academic practitioners and digital experts in social listening, this engagement programme will address a number of questions including:

  • How can social media be used in qualitative ways to better understand people's opinions and narrations of political and social issues? 

  • How do we engage meaningfully and ethically with this medium? 

  • How can skills traditionally used in the humanities be reshaped to analyse material that is born digital? 

  • What methodologies can be developed and shared between different sectors?

Further information

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