Trace Interview Workshop at #SMSociety15

This morning Devin Gaffney and I ran a workshop on trace interviews at the Social Media and Society Conference. Trace interviews involve collecting and visualizing trace data (in this case, social media data, like tweets or likes). The researcher brings visualizations into the interview setting and invites the interviewee to help interpret the data. Since the interviewee is the person who left the trace data in the first place, their insight is valuable for understanding the context of communication, the validity of data and the meaning behind traceable online interactions.

Heather Ford and I describe the strengths and weaknesses of this approach in our International Journal of Communication article.

You can also check out the slides we used for this workshop. I will add a full bibliography shortly.

This is a mixed-methods approach in development. We would love to hear your feedback, suggestions, questions and concerns. We’d also love to hear about other research using similar techniques. Feel free to comment below, tweet or email.

Here is a simple network graph which visualizes the relationships among some of our workshop attendees. Each node (circle) is an attendee. The edges (lines) represent times one attendee has mentioned the other.


Despite dark overtones, Big Data a bonus to all [Op-Ed: the Chronicle Herald]

After attending a week long visual analytics summer school at the Dalhousie Computer Science Department where I attended the launch of their new ‘Institute for Big Data Analytics,’ I started thinking about what “big data” and “analytics” actually mean. For me, both terms were – and perhaps remain – a little beyond my grasp. I know the general ideas but the terms are not exactly clear cut.

“Big data” is supposed to be that new thing that changes the world entirely, right? It is that chance to access new insight given the abundance of information we can now collect, store, and analyze. Now, these claims are likely exaggerated, and definitely over simplified. New and revolutionary or not, there is an undeniable impact on the way we live our lives. The next logical question is: in what ways? I ask this question from the perspective of a citizen, not an academic. My piece in the Chronicle Herald is the result of a week of ruminating. Give it a read.