Questions for the #twitterstorians

The Open Humanities Awards were announced a few days ago.

We are challenging humanities researchers, designers and developers to create innovative projects that use open content, open data or open source to further teaching or research in the humanities. [deadline 13 March]

I’d like to enter an application involving the use of the Twitter hashtag archives that I’ve been creating at The Broadside for well over a year now. The data, drawn from the Twitter API, is stored in MySQL, so all sorts of datamining analyses, visualisations, etc, are possible, and would be presented at The Broadside website itself. (This could include topic modelling, network analysis, sentiment analysis, impact analysis, etc.)

And there is a lot of data (including some that isn’t publicly displayed at present) there for the ways in which historians are using Twitter:

  • The biggest single hashtag archive is the original one for #twitterstorians which currently contains around 28,000 tweets dating back to August 2011.
  • There are also smaller ongoing archives like #histsci, #earlymodern and #dhist.
  • Added to that are the events archives, including the AHA conferences for 2012 and 2013.

I see three main facets to the project:

  1. research questions: analysis (with offline or online tools) for presentation and publication.
  2. resources and tools on the website, to go beyond the fairly basic search facilities currently available. This will also include resources on building and working with your own archives. I’d also like to make the data itself more openly available for re-use/research but bear in mind this is restricted by the Twitter API terms of service.
  3. open code: project software code wherever possible will be made openly available, probably at Github (including the original scripts to collect and archive tweets).

So, it seems only right to ask the #twitterstorians for their ideas about what to do with the data they themselves have created!

  • What would you most like to know about this stuff?
  • What sort of visualisations would you be interested in seeing?
  • What would you like to be able to do with the archives for yourself at the website?

It’s also important for the terms of the award (and the principle of the thing!) to use open source tools and software as much as possible. I have a few in mind, but am on the lookout for more. So if you have favourite tools that are not horrendously difficult to learn to use (the project would run for a maximum 6 months), please post links. I’m also looking for the most interesting recent research on Twitter use.

And finally, if you’d like to collaborate actively on the project – especially those with relevant programming expertise, but also researchers who’d be interested in doing analysis on the data to write up for presentations and publications of their own – please let me know as soon as possible.

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