Big Questions for social media big data: Representativeness, validity and other methodological pitfalls

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

441 Scopus citations

Abstract

Large-scale databases of human activity in social media have captured scientific and policy attention, producing a flood of research and discussion. This paper considers methodological and conceptual challenges for this emergent field, with special attention to the validity and representativeness of social media big data analyses. Persistent issues include the over-emphasis of a single platform, Twitter, sampling biases arising from selection by hashtags, and vague and unrepresentative sampling frames. The sociocultural complexity of user behavior aimed at algorithmic invisibility (such as subtweeting, mock-retweeting, use of "screen captures" for text, etc.) further complicate interpretation of big data social media. Other challenges include accounting for field effects, i.e. broadly consequential events that do not diffuse only through the network under study but affect the whole society. The application of network methods from other fields to the study of human social activity may not always be appropriate. The paper concludes with a call to action on practical steps to improve our analytic capacity in this promising, rapidly-growing field..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 8th International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, ICWSM 2014
PublisherThe AAAI Press
Pages505-514
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781577356578
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event8th International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, ICWSM 2014 - Ann Arbor, United States
Duration: Jun 1 2014Jun 4 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 8th International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, ICWSM 2014

Conference

Conference8th International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, ICWSM 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAnn Arbor
Period6/1/146/4/14

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications

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