Call for applications: Theorizing and analyzing social media in political communication and journalism

Does your country have elections soon and you want to know how politicians and parties try to win your vote? Or are you interested how journalists use social media, and newspapers try to battle the declining subscription rates? And, on the side, want to learn the coolest analysis software that you can get for free? Well, then maybe this is the summer course you might want to sign up for.

Social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Plurk, Renren) are important new digital platforms for online social networking and microblogging to discuss all kinds of issues (serious and trivial). Basically, whatever keeps people busy. This kind of public communication has received lots of positive but mainly negative attention in the mainstream media as well as in the social sciences.
Social media research is concerned with determining how regular people (citizens), political actors (politicians, organizations) and media professionals (journalists) use social media to share opinions about issues, create online communities and use social media strategically to inform or to win over people, e.g. to vote for them. In this course you will learn how to look at these social media data to understand how journalists, politicians, and citizens use social media.
The course has three main parts:

  • theorizing social media,
  • theorizing online journalism and political communication, and
  • methods of data collection and analysis of social media.

Theorizing social media will look at specifics of social media design and how this affects online communication and networks. This theme is generic to all kinds of social media and connected digital media. Subsequently we will look at theorizing social media in journalism and political communication uses traditional an new approaches to theorize social media such as agenda setting research, networked journalism. Furthermore, we will discuss and use methods of collection and analyzing social media data. This empirical and hands-on part will focus on understanding the structure of social media data (e.g. networks based on social connections, but also sharing activities), the dynamics of social media data (e.g. change across time of social media activity), the actual content of social media (i.e. expressed opinions).

The program of the first week will focus on theory, although methods will also be a part of those sessions. The second week we will have hands-on meetings on how to collect social media data, how to develop measurements instruments and analyzing social media in terms of structure and content. We will use R as our tool for data collection, and data analysis. Data analysis will focus on basic statistical analysis (cross-tabulation, differences in means, regression analysis), content analysis and network analysis.

After this course you are able to:

  1. Theorize how journalists and politicians use social media: There are several theoretical approaches to understanding social media use in general, but also specifically in the fields of political communication and journalism. How to apply theories and hypotheses to data in these two field will be the focus the first week;
  2. Understand the different methods needed to test theories on social media in political communication and journalism: Specific theories and hypotheses require specific research designs, methods and techniques. When discussing these theories and hypotheses, we will directly;
  3. In week two the focus will be on R as a data collection technique, as well as an analytical tool for testing hypotheses. You will be able to access Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), in order to access data. You will be able to set up an R installation on your computer and be able to find and install relevant packages;
  4. You will be able to perform basic analyses on social media data using R software. This will range from frequencies, cross tabulation, correlations, multidimensional scaling and regression analysis. The data that will be used will mostly be provided for, but also data collected during the course will be used.

For who?
This social media course is for the curious at heart, specifically regarding online social relations and online communication on social media. Even though there are many complaints about social media, being addictive, polarizing, and invested with Fake News, we as academics still have a lot of ground to cover to understand the role of social media in news, political campaigns, media hypes. At the same time, social media communication can turn out to be quite complex (cf. networked communication). Due to this complexity, students, who want to apply, have a broad interest in social and communication processes. Students who like the in-depth analysis of online social behavior and online content, and do not eschew the occasional mathematical formula, this course is for you.
Even though it is not required to be experienced in statistics, having affinity with quantitative research as well have experience with using computers (cf. installing software) is considered helpful.
Your laptop
You will need to bring your own laptop. A laptop with the following requirements should be sufficient:

  • at least 4Gb RAM memory
  • running Windows 8.1 or higher, or a Linux (Ubuntu 14.04 or higher), Mac OS
  • wireless internet capability

Important dates

  • 1 April 2018: Deadline Early bird discount. If you apply before this date you will receive 10% discount or even 25% discount if you are studying at one of our partner universities
  • 1 June 2018: Application deadline
  • 6-17 August 2018: the course

For more information and applying for the course, please follow this link.

Oh yeah, so who will teach the course? That will be me, Maurice Vergeer. For more information on what I do, please check the rest of this blog and take a look at my publications.

Asian trip 2017-2018

You know the phrase that time flies when you’re having fun? Well, late August I left the Netherlands for a one-week trip to Singapore for the KAS conference, two weeks R&R in Indonesia and a five-month project in Japan. Well, it was over very quickly. Well, that’s how I perceived it anyway. And now I’m already back in the Netherlands for three weeks. And yes, I sometimes I’m homesick for Japan. I mean it’s a very nice country to be. The people are very nice, the scenery is very beautiful, when you know where to look. And of course, the food is absolutely the best.
I had been to Japan three times before, as a tourist, mostly in the spring. Now I had the opportunity to experience autumn and winter, and the occasional typhoon. Christmas began early in Japan, at least for Starbucks: December 1st and all music and decorations were in the spirit of Xmas. Me, from the Netherlands, having Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet on December 5th Starbucks, reallllyyyy: 1st December is tooooooo early for Xmas!
The winter period can be quite cold, but is for the most part beautiful with a lot of sun. This year we had some snow, which is – at least for the east coast – exceptional. The west coast had a lot of slow too. Way too much as far as I could tell.
The project itself was financed by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, for which I am grateful. I also thank University of Tsukuba for acting as host. I really enjoyed the campus life.

A few thanks you for some people. First, the people at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for inviting me. Leslie Tkach-Kawasaki for all the tedious admin-work. I am glad I didn’t have to do that. Junku Lee for the occasional film and nice conversations. Muneo Kaigo for the nice conversations over dinner. And Naoki Fukuhara for our meetings at Starbucks talking about our paper. Also, a thank you to all the people I met during my stay, the dinners and drinks.

It’s been a productive period, having collected over 80Gb of social media data. It was pure luck that Abe announced snap-elections two weeks after I arrived in Japan. I’m working on a few papers on social media in election campaigns and newspapers strategies in the use of social media. that should emerge from this project. Let’s hope the editors and reviewers like them too 🙂

New study about the journalists’ perceived credibility of online info and their checking behavior

About a week ago my study about journalists’ perceived credibility of online info and their checking behavior. Below is the abstract of the article, which was published in Observatorio (OBS*). I hope you enjoy the read.

This study focuses on the extent journalists verify information provided by online sources, and tests to what extent this verification behavior can be explained by journalists’ perceived credibility of online information and other factors, such as journalism education of journalists, work and Internet experience, and work environment (broadcasting, newspapers, Internet). Although several studies have focused on perceived credibility of online information, none have tested its effect on actual verification behavior. This study will perform that test.
Using a sample from the membership database of the Dutch Association of Journalists, a web questionnaire was used to ask journalists about their opinions, behavior, and professional background characteristics. Regression analysis was used to test the hypotheses.
Analyses show that journalism education does not affect journalists’ verification behavior, neither directly nor indirectly via perceived online source credibility. Perceiving online information as less credible does not lead to verifying online information more extensively. Journalism education only affects the extent journalists perceive online (semi-) governmental information as less credible.
The findings question the role of formal and informal professional socialization in training journalists to become professional journalists adhering to professional standards.