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Making waves on the net

Munich, 07/05/2012

Protest blogs, the rise of the Pirate Party, the role of Facebook and Twitter in the Arab Spring: The significance of political communication on the internet continues to grow. A new research project takes a closer look at its forms and mechanisms.

Many headline-making events over the past year have shown that political communication on the internet and in the classical mass media follow quite different rules. However, exactly how political themes are disseminated and opinions are formed in web-based media is poorly understood. The major reason for this is that the necessary methodological tools have yet to be created. A new interdisciplinary cooperative project “Analysis of Discourses in Online Social Media”, in which LMU communication scientist Christoph Neuberger is involved, plans to provide such a toolkit.

The primary aim of the project is to improve procedures for automated content analysis of blogs and postings on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to enable large masses of text to be processed in a timely manner. The researchers will also look for better ways of analyzing the mesh of connections between linked postings. Neuberger describes the role of the LMU group as follows: “We will coordinate the projects both methodologically and in terms of their content. Additionally we will evaluate the automatically generated results to ensure that the new methods deliver valid conclusions”.

The Cooperative Project will be coordinated by the University of Münster. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has agreed to provide around 800,000 euros to support the work until 2015.

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