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.

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Maurice Vergeer

I am Maurice Vergeer, working at Communication Science department of the Radboud University Nijmegen, in the Netherlands.