Kate Starbird

Winter 2020

Tools for Exploratory Analysis of Social Media Communities

This DRG will develop and apply techniques in the exploratory analysis of online communities found in large social media datasets. Such techniques could include quantitative metrics, data visualizations, or other methods that produce knowledge in pursuit of a research question. We will develop public-facing tools to implement these techniques across multiple contexts.

We will develop our tools in the context of specific research questions, to ground our tools in the practical needs of research. Participants in this DRG should either already be exploring a research question in a specific social media platform(s), or be prepared to adopt a question at the start of the DRG. More junior students can work with DRG organizers to determine a question and/or dataset. This group will be facilitated by HCDE PhD student Andrew Beers.


This DRG has several goals. We want its members to push and learn from each other in the development of these tools. To that end, we are looking for participants that are comfortable with at least one programming language, or otherwise have prior experience with the analysis of social media datasets.

We want to develop tools that stay relevant to the context of our research questions, while still being portable for use by future researchers. We will aim to make tools that can be used by audiences wider than ourselves, and to conduct our work in a reproducible and accessible fashion. One of the end-products of this DRG will be to share open-source code in formats that can be easily used by our fellow researchers.

We finally want to understand what knowledge our tools can and more specifically cannot make available to us. We will discuss and reflect on the limitations of these techniques throughout the quarter. We will also consider ethical issues in social media analysis, such as privacy and anonymization techniques.

Course Details

This will be a two-credit course, with 2 hours of meeting time per week. Meeting times will be chosen by a survey of DRG participants in the weeks before the quarter starts. The course will progress from a brief literature review to collaborative design and coding sessions.

How to Apply

Please fill out this Google Form if you are interested in this course. We may follow up with you for a brief conversation about your goals for this course. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until December 27, 2019.

Dr. Starbird's Research Group archive