Network Science For Online Social Media: An X-Ray or a Stethoscope For Society?

Date: 21st March 2017

Speaker: Dr Mariano Beguerisse (University of Oxford)

On 21st March 2017, the Data Science Institute welcomed Dr Mariano Beguerisse from the University of Oxford to present 'Network science for online social media: an x-ray or a stethoscope for society?'.

Dr Beguerisse discussed the abundance of data from social media outlets such as Twitter, and the opportunity they provide to perform research at a societal level at a scale unforeseen, spurring the development of mathematical and computational methods such as network science, which uses the formalism and language of graph theory to study large systems of interacting agents. In this talk, Mariano provided a sketch of network science and its application to study online social media. A number of different networks can be constructed from Twitter data, which can be used to ask questions about users, ranging from the structural (an 'x-ray' to see how societies are connected online) to the topical ('stethoscope' to feel how users interact in the context of specific event). The presentation included concrete examples from the UK riots of 2011, applications to medical anthropology, and political referenda, and highlighted distinct challenges such as the directionality of connections, the size of the network, the use of temporal information and text, all of which are active areas of research.