Citizen Journalism and Social Media Minitrack

The exponential growth of social media as a central communication practice, and its agility in announcing breaking news events more rapidly than traditional media, has changed the journalistic landscape: social media has been adopted as a significant source by professional journalists, and conversely, citizens are able to use social media as a form of direct reportage. Social media content now forms a significant part of the digital content generated every day, and provides a platform for voices that would not reach the broader public through traditional journalistic media alone. In this emerging environment, citizen microblogs and other user-generated content constitute an important part of history and popular memory, in particular when attempting to capture significant events and the varied perspectives that accompany these events.

The flow of citizen generated reporting through social media is ephemeral and disordered; it quickly becomes inaccessible if not captured and stored in some way. This is in contrast to traditional journalism, which has well-developed archival practices, enabling the news production life cycle to reuse and rediscover content. This new landscape calls for technologies and methodologies to 1) rapidly and efficiently capture, filter and verify content in a way that generates immediate value for journalistic purposes; and 2) properly annotate and archive this information for longer-term preservation, access and reuse in the news life-cycle (e.g. for contextualisation, investigative reporting or comprehensive storytelling). If not preserved, or if preserved without careful attention to subsequent access and discoverability, there is a risk of losing the diversity this rich social narrative contributes to traditional news media. In this minitrack we are interested in addressing a variety of research questions from both theoretical and pragmatic perspectives. For example, how we can best utilise social media for news production? What technologies can we use for breaking news detection, filtering, aggregation and contextualisation? How can we assess the veracity of social media content and sources? What moral, legal, and ethical issues arise when professional journalists use social media as a source? How can we organise, interpret, and retain a record of social media around news events? What does this record contribute to our larger understanding of news, and the writing of news? How can rigorous archiving and preservation of social media help researchers and journalists in their work on social movements, citizen engagement, political events, and network formation?

In summary, this multidisciplinary minitrack focuses on the areas of citizen/social journalism and social media archiving, which pose distinct, yet complementary, research challenges. By pairing these topics in one multidisciplinary minitrack we hope to stimulate an exchange of ideas between multiple domains of research and industry, including news media, digital archiving and preservation, social network analysis, semantic web and linked data, communication studies and cultural studies. To this end we welcome papers in either of these two areas or papers that address their intersection.

Keeping the application domains of the minitrack in mind, topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • The role of user generated content in the news production life-cycle
  • Veracity, trust and provenance of social media sources and content
  • Approaches to archiving social media content
  • Event and topic detection and clustering
  • Information and entity extraction
  • Social network and community analysis
  • Semantic Web and Linked Data technologies for archival, discovery and enrichment of social media content
  • Opinion mining and sentiment analysis
  • Story curation, contextualisation and recommendation
  • Ethical challenges in archiving and broadcasting social media content

Minitrack Co-Chairs:

Bahareh Heravi (Primary Contact)
Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway, Ireland

Natalie Harrower Digital Repository of Ireland, Royal Irish Academy

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