ICTs and Democracy: Presenting a Twitter Platform for Mapping and Data

NOD Shared Space February 17, 2016 10:45 - 11:30

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Walid Al-Saqaf
Christian Christensen

In this workshop we highlight some of our research around the study of social media use in enhancing open and deliberative democracy, particularly in developing countries, where traditional media is often restricted.

As part of our mandate in the EU FP7 Media Conflict and Democratization (“MeCoDem”) project (, we were asked to research the impact and use of ICTs in particular countries. However, we soon realized that it would be difficult to empirically measure the use and impact of ICTs due to the large amount of digital data and the apparent technical skill requirements to extract the relevant information necessary for sound and comprehensive research.

In order to tackle this challenge, we devised a web-based platform that could be easily used by MeCoDem researchers to retrieve and analyze tweets and use the emerging data in their own research and stories. The platform requires entering a particular search term (keywords, hashtags, phrases, etc.) and a period of time (e.g., January 2016), after which it would produce graphs and key information in addition to data that could be exported to standard CVS format for additional analysis. The displayed data answers questions around the frequency and volume of tweets, retweets, the actual contents of the tweets, who tweeted them and using what device/software, in addition to a host of other useful information.

The idea behind the platform originated from our interest in studying how ICTs impact democratization particularly during times of conflict and the software, which remains in active development, is expected to be one of the outcomes of the MeCoDem. So far, the platform has been used in the MeCoDem project to extract Twitter data related to a number of conflicts that took place in four countries: Egypt, Serbia, Kenya and South Africa. However, we hope to expand the use of the platform so it could benefit other researchers and journalists and get feedback on the value of such a platform, potential uses and improvements, ethical considerations, and contribution to research and journalism.


10:00- 10:05: Overview of the MeCoDEM project and the platform’s role
By Prof. Christian Christen

10:05-10:25: Demo of the platform by adding a new case and previewing results:
By Walid Al-Saqaf

10:25-10:45: Open discussion