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  • Designing social media analytics tools to support non-market institutions: Four case studies using Twitter data

Tidey, Jimmy, 2019, Thesis, Designing social media analytics tools to support non-market institutions: Four case studies using Twitter data PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This research investigates the design of social media tools for non-market institutions, such as local government or community groups. At the core of this practice-based research is a software tool called LocalNets. LocalNets was developed to collect, analyse and visualise data from Twitter, thereby revealing information about community structure and community assets. It is anticipated that this information could help non- market institutions and the communities with which they work.

Twitter users send messages to one another using the ‘@mention’ function. This activity is made visible publicly and has the potential to indicate a Twitter user’s participation in a ‘community structure’; that is, it can reveal an interpersonal network of social connections. Twitter activity also provides data about community assets (such as parks, shops and cinemas) when tweets mention these assets’ names.

The context for this research is the Creative Exchange Hub (CX), one of four Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Under the theme of ‘Digital Public Space’, the CX Hub facilitated creative research collaborations between PhD researchers, academics and non-academic institutions. Building on the CX model, this PhD research forged partnerships between local councils, non-public sector institutions that work with communities, software developers and academics with relevant subject expertise.

Development of the LocalNets tool was undertaken as an integral part of the research. As the software was developed, it was deployed in relevant contexts through partnerships with a range of non-market institutions, predominantly located in the UK, to explore its use in those contexts. Four projects are presented as design case studies: 1) a prototyping phase, 2) a project with the Royal Society of Arts in the London Borough of Hounslow, 3) a multi-partner project in Peterborough, and 4) a project with Newspeak House, a technology and politics co-working space located in London.

The case studies were undertaken using an Action Design Research method, as articulated by Sein et al. Findings from these case studies are grouped into two categories. The first are ‘Implementation findings’ which relate specifically to the use of data from Twitter. Second there are six ‘situated design principles’ which were developed across the case studies, and which are proposed as having potential application beyond Twitter data.
The ‘Implementation findings’ include that Twitter can be effective for locating participants for focus groups on community topics, and that the opinions expressed directly in tweets are rarely sufficient for the local government of community groups to respond to. These findings could benefit designers working with Twitter data.

The six situated design principles were developed through the case studies: two apply Burt’s brokerage social capital theory, describing how network structure relates to social capital; two apply Donath’s signalling theory – which suggests how social media behaviours can indicate perceptions of community assets; and two situated design principles apply Borgatti and Halgin’s network flow model – a theory which draws together brokerage social capital and signalling theory. The principles are applicable to social media analytics tools and are relevant to the goals of non-market institutions. They are situated in the context of the case studies; however, they are potentially applicable to social media platforms other than Twitter.

Linders identifies a paucity of research into social media tools for non-market institutions. The findings of this research, developed by deploying and testing the LocalNets social media analytics tool with non-market institutions, aim to address that research gap and to inform practitioner designers working in this area.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Other > Technologies > J900 Others in Technology
Other > Social studies > L900 Others in Social studies > L990 Social studies not elsewhere classified
Other > Mass Communications and Documentation > P900 Others in Mass Communications and Documentation
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified
Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: Research Centres > Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2020 10:26
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2020 10:26
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4255
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