For ‘Riot rumours: how misinformation spread on Twitter during a time of crisis‘ The Guardian teamed up with the Manchester eResearch Centre; and got nominated for a Data Journalism Award. An interview with professor Rob Procter.
Presenting your nominated production in an elevator pitch, what would you say?
The project demonstrates how new methods and tools for the analysis of social media can be applied to understanding social phenomena. It also provides a convincing example of how academics can take their work out into the real world.
What inspired you to make Riot Rumours?
I was interested in exploring the application of new methods and tools for the analysis of social media to real world problems. The corpus of tweets collected by the Guardian during the summer 2011 riots in England presented an excellent opportunity to do this in the context of an episode of social unrest of major significance and posing important questions for social researchers.
Did you work by yourself or in a team?
I work in a team. Because of the scale of data involved, this work would be impossible – both in terms of the effort and skills required – for an individual to complete in a timely way. My main co-workers were Farida Vis and Alex Voss. We were assisted by several other researchers.
How did you get a hold on the data you needed?
The data was collected by the Guardian.
Which tools were used making this production?
We used computational tools which we developed to extract ‘information flows’ from the corpus of tweets. (Read this blogpost for more detail on the making of Riot Rumours.)
How did it take to make Riots Rumours?
The project took 2 months overall.
Were there any bumps in the road?
The short time scale that we had to work to was very challenging. It called for dedication, commitment and hard work from the team and they rose to the challenge magnificently.
Do you have a useful tip for starting data journalists?
This is a rapidly developing field and the challenges are changing almost day-by-day. I think journalists – whether starting out or more experienced – have much to gain from collaborating with academic researchers so that they can take advantage of the latest tools and methods.