2017 #SMSociety Theme: Social Media for Social Good or Evil

Our online behaviour is far from virtual–it extends our offline lives. Much social media research has identified the positive opportunities of using social media; for example, how people use social media to form support groups online, participate in political uprising, raise money for charities, extend teaching and learning outside the classroom, etc. However, mirroring offline experiences, we have also seen social media being used to spread propaganda and misinformation, recruit terrorists, live stream criminal activities, reinforce echo chambers by politicians, and perpetuate hate and oppression (such as racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic behaviour).

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Friday, July 28 • 09:00 - 10:30
Workshop 1A: Augmenting Social Media through Data Linkage

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Workshop Facilitators

Dr. Luke Sloan
, Cardiff University (UK)
Dr. Anabel Quan-Haase, Western University (Canada)
Dr. Dhiraj Murthy, University of Texas at Austin (USA)
Dr. Frauke Zeller, Ryerson University (Canada)

Workshop Details 


1) To explore the opportunities afforded through linking social media with other forms of data

2) To evaluate the benefits of linking data against ethical concerns

3) To identify hurdles around informed consent for data linkage

4) To engage participants in discussions

Presenters will lead a series of short sessions around their specialist topic. Each presenter will begin with a maximum 10 min talk identifying the key issues and considerations involved in their area of research. They will then set a group task for participants to engage in, involving discussions in groups of around 8 and feeding back via plenary.

Presenters will talk to the following topics:

SLOAN will make the case for linking data (specifically Twitter and social surveys). Drawing on the augmentation thesis (Edwards et al. 2013), he will argue that social media does not replace existing avenues of social research, rather that it augments our understanding through providing an alternative lens through which to view the social world. He will draw upon research which has attempted to address the lack of demographic information available regarding Twitter users (Sloan et al. 2013, Sloan et al. 2015, Sloan and Morgan 2015) and make the case for data linkage to further increase the utility of the data. In particular he will discuss recent studies that have requested permission to link data including British Social Attitudes 2015 and the Understanding Society Innovation Panel 2017 and what opportunities these afford us.

Group Activity: Group Work - generation of research questions that can only be answered with linked data.

QUAN- HAASE will examine novel and innovative means of linking data from multiple sources that takes into account ethical debates in the field of social media research. Linking data is considered the new frontier of social media scholarship, as it provides many advantages over decontextualized and flat data (Quan-Haase and Sloan, 2017). Linking data is no easy task, and several attempts have demonstrated the challenges— technical and ethical—over bridging various data sources. In this workshop section, a novel and innovative approach to data linking will be discussed that relies on combining data from interviews with social media data. By specifically obtaining consent from participants prior to data linking, the accuracy of the data can be verified and ethical concerns addressed. We demonstrate both the strengths and limitations of the approach.

Group Activity: Group Work – gaining informed consent for social media data linkage

MURTHY will address questions of data linkage in areas of human coding. Many types of data linkage are premised on metadata. However, many types of content do not have ready metadata for the types of things that we may like to study. Specifically, methods such as text mining and topic modeling often times are quite literal. This is further problematized with visual social media data (when the machine has much more difficulty reading what exactly an image is trying to convey). In this workshop section, Murthy makes the case for methods of human coding that enable us to understand social media data well and produce data linkages that take into account ethical concerns. Using his own projects where Instagram images and tweets were coded, Murthy introduces methods that can be implemented in qualitative, quantitative, and mixed social media research settings.

Group Activity: Discussion - what can be linked?

ZELLER will discuss her approach to linking data in method-mix study designs as a means to first of all combine quantitative and qualitative methods and second of all to overcome certain deficits in social media data, such as lack of demographic information and/or means to verify information. She will showcase a mixed-methods study on analysing Facebook images and image captions using quantitative corpus linguistics and qualitative image analysis. She will discuss ethical implications using Facebook perse, but also issues such as data discrimination and inclusion when it comes to image analyses in social media.

Group Activity: Discussion - what does your profile say about you?

Workshop participants can expect to have learnt: 

  • What opportunities linked data can provide and what new avenues of research could be made available to the academic community
  • How data can be linked between social surveys and some social media platforms
  • What the key ethical issues are in linking data and how we can respond to them
  • How to approach gaining informed consent for data linkage

Instructors’ Bios

Luke Sloan is a Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Methods and Deputy Director of the Social Data Science Lab at the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, UK. Luke has worked on a range of projects investigating the use of Twitter data for understanding social phenomena covering topics such as election prediction, tracking (mis)information propagation during food scares and ‘crime-sensing’. His research focuses on the development of demographic proxies for Twitter data to further understand who uses the platform and increase the utility of such data for the social sciences. He sits as an expert member on the Social Media Analytics Review and Information Group (SMARIG) which brings together academics and government agencies. He is currently involved with three large UK-based social survey studies that are exploring potential linkage between Twitter and survey data – the Welsh Election Study, British Social Attitudes 2015 and the Understanding Society Innovation Panel 2017.

Anabel Quan-Haase is an Associate Professor and holds a joint appointment at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies and the Department of Sociology, the University of Western Ontario. She is the director of the SocioDigital Lab and her research interests focus on how people integrate social media into their everyday lives and work settings. Her particular focus is on user engagement and the role of social context in how individuals use and make sense of messages and interactions on social media. Dr. Quan-Haase is the author of Technology and Society (2016, 2nd ed. with Oxford University Press) and co-editor with Luke Sloan of the Handbook of Social Media Research Methods (2017 with Sage). She is the past president of the Canadian Association for Information Science and a past Council Member and Secretary of the CITAMS section of the American Sociological Association.

Dhiraj Murthy is an Associate Professor of Journalism and Sociology at the University of Texas Austin. He was previously Reader of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His research explores social media, digital research methods, race/ethnicity, qualitative/mixed methods, big data quantitative analysis, and virtual organizations. Dhiraj has authored over 40 articles, book chapters, and papers and a book about Twitter, the first on the subject (published by Polity Press, 2013). He was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Office of CyberInfrastructure for pioneering work on social networking technologies in virtual organization breeding grounds, which resulted in two edited journal issues and the Collaborative Organizations & Social Media conference. Dhiraj’s work also uniquely explores the potential role of social technologies in diversity and community inclusion. He previously co-directed The Centre for Creative & Social Technologies at Goldsmiths and founded the Social Network Innovation Lab at Bowdoin College. He is chair of Social Media, Activism, and Organisations (#SMAO15) and a co-chair of Social Media & Society 2016.

Frauke Zeller is Associate Professor in the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Frauke works with social media data and digital communication focusing on the development of innovative mixed-methods approaches. She has also published in the field of social sciences and big data analyses, and co-edited a book on method innovations in European audience studies. Besides analysing social media data, Frauke researches other digital communication environments, such as virtual worlds and Human-Robot Interaction.


Edwards, A., Housley, W., Williams, M., Sloan, L., & Williams, M. (2013). Digital social research, social media and the sociological imagination: surrogacy, augmentation and re-orientation. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 16(3), 245-260. doi: 10.1080/13645579.2013.774185

Quan-Haase, A. & Sloan, L. (forthcoming 2017). Introduction to the Handbook of Social Media Research Methods: Goals, Challenges and Innovations. In L. Sloan & A. Quan- Haase (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Social Media Research Methods. London: SAGE.

Sloan, L., Morgan, J., Housley, W., Williams, M., Edwards, A., Burnap, P., & Rana, O. (2013). Knowing the Tweeters: Deriving Sociologically Relevant Demographics from Twitter. Sociological Research Online, 18


Workshop Organizers

dhiraj murthy

Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin
avatar for Anabel Quan-Haase

Anabel Quan-Haase

Professor, Western University
Looking forward to hearing about novel methods in the study of social media, new trends, and social activism. I am also curious about interdisciplinary teams and how they work. Any success stories, best practices or failures?
avatar for Luke Sloan

Luke Sloan

Deputy Director Social Data Science Lab, Cardiff University
Luke Sloan is a Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Methods and Deputy Director of the Social Data Science Lab at the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University UK. Luke has worked on a range of projects investigating the use of Twitter data for understanding social phenomena covering... Read More →
avatar for Frauke Zeller

Frauke Zeller

Associate Professor, Ryerson University
I am the co-creator of hitchBOT!

Friday July 28, 2017 09:00 - 10:30 EDT
TRS 1-147 - 7th Flr Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University 55 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M5G 2C9