“Who are they and what do they want”: a SoBigData TNA experience by Nicole Nisbett

Host: Giulio Rossetti, Assistant Professor in Computer Science
Department of Computer Science, University of Pisa & KDD Lab, ISTI-CNR

I was lucky enough to spend the month of October 2018 in unusually sunny Pisa, Italy.  Aside from consuming as much pizza, pasta, and gelato as possible, the purpose of my visit was to complete a short-term scientific mission (STSM) with the Department of Computer Science and the Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD) Laboratory at the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (National Research Council of Italy). The Transnational Access funded by the SoBigData Research Infrastructure provides access to researchers in the KDD-lab and the ability to learn from their expertise in various aspects of computer science.

Birds-eye view of the Department of Computer Science, University of Pisa

The title of my project “Who are they and what do they want” focussed on analysing the network of interactions between Facebook users and the Facebook posts made by the UK House of Commons account. I also used data from twitter, recording tweets which used a particular hashtag relating to a parliamentary debate between a specific time period. The aim of the STSM was to learn more about network analysis, in particular the application of different community discovery algorithms to uncover clusters in this data. I also aimed to combine these clusters with text analysis techniques such as topic modelling and sentiment analysis. This layered approach to the analysis allowed me to delve deeper into the data leading to a richer interpretation of the clusters.

National Research Council of Italy

Along with learning new analytical techniques, the TNA allows PhD students to build important networks and collaborate with different researchers. Working between two very different disciplines of politics and computer science allows me to apply exciting and novel methods to existing questions, however understanding the correct interpretation of results is key. Therefore, creating long-lasting collaborations with external research centres is vital to the success of my research and future career. This is an experience I would not have been able to have without the support and funding from SoBigData. 

I will be presenting some preliminary results to the UK Parliament and at the Social Media and Social Sciences Conference in December at London School of Economics, and I look forward to returning to Pisa in the future.

Nicole Nisbett (mm16nn@leeds.ac.uk, twitter: @NicoleDNisbett)
PhD Researcher
University of Leeds

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