Social Science Computer Review

Volume 29, No. 4

Winter, 2011



Researching personal information on the public web: Methods and ethics / David Wilkinson & Mike Thelwall


Abstract: There are many personal and social issues that are rarely discussed in public and hence are difficult to study. Recently, however, the huge uptake of blogs, forums and social network sites has created spaces in which previously private topics are publically discussed, giving a new opportunity for researchers investigating such topics. This article describes a range of simple techniques to access personal information relevant to social research questions and illustrates them with small case studies. It also discusses ethical considerations, concluding that the default position is almost the reverse of that for traditional social science research: the text authors should not be asked for consent nor informed of the participation of their texts. Normally, however, steps should be taken to ensure that text authors are anonymous in academic publications even when their texts and identities are already public.


Election forecasts with Twitter: How 140 characters reflect the political landscape / Andranik Tumasjan, Timm O. Sprenger, Philipp G. Sandner, & Isabell M. Welpe


Abstract: This study investigates whether microblogging messages on Twitter validly mirror the political landscape offline and can be used to predict election results. In the context of the 2009 German federal election, we conducted a sentiment analysis of over 100,000 messages containing a reference to either a political party or a politician. Our results show that Twitter is used extensively for political deliberation and that the mere number of party mentions accurately reflects the election result. The tweets' sentiment (e.g., positive and negative emotions associated with a politician) corresponds closely to voters' political preferences. In addition, party sentiment profiles reflect the similarity of political positions between parties. We derive suggestions for further research and discuss the use of microblogging services to aggregate dispersed information.


Twitter: The electoral connection? / David S. Lassen & Adam R. Brown

Abstract: The rapid rise of Twitter and other social media tools has enticed many members of Congress to personally use these services. Such waves of technological adoption are comparatively rare in Congressional history, leaving us with little knowledge about why some members of Congress adopt new technologies while others do not. We find that Twitter adoption and use are relatively difficult to predict. Members are more likely to use Twitter if they belong to the minority party, if their party leaders urge them to, if they are young, or if they serve in the Senate. Surprisingly, we find that electoral vulnerability has little or no effect on Twitter adoption or use.


LinkedIn and Facebook In Belgium: the influences and biases of social network sites in recruitment and selection procedures / Ralf Caers & Vanessa Castelyns


Abstract: This study investigates whether Belgian recruitment and selection-professionals use LinkedIn and Facebook during their recruitment and selection procedures, and to what extent. Respectively 398 and 353 respondents, from various sectors and from organizations of various sizes, responded to an online questionnaire concerning Facebook and LinkedIn. Descriptive analyses indicate that both social network sites have become extra tools for recruiting applicants, to find additional information about them and to decide who will be invited for an interview. Belgian R&S-professionals do, however, use LinkedIn and Facebook in a different way, both for recruitment as for selection. Finally, it is shown that while R&S-professionals claim profile pictures on Facebook do not provide signals on personality dimensions like emotional stability and agreeableness, they do tend to recognize signals of extraversion and maturity. The latter creates the risk that common selection biases occur even before the first interview.


Voices of convergence or conflict?: A path analysis investigation of selective exposure to political web sites / Thomas J. Johnson, Weiwu Zhang, & Shannon L. Bichard

Abstract: This research employed a path analysis model to explore the degree to which reliance on offline and online media, offline and online discussion of political issues, as well as political attitudes predict whether an individual will engage in selective exposure to political Web sites. The study also looked at selective avoidance of contradictory information on Web sites. The results indicate that respondents did indeed practice selective exposure when accessing information on political Web sites, especially among those who are politically active online and those who rely heavily on Web sites and blogs for political information. However, the results showed that selective avoidance did not occur, with those exhibiting increased political interest and online participation significantly less likely to avoid information that challenges their views.


Arts and leisure participation among IT users: Further evidence of time enhancement over time displacement / John P. Robinson

Abstract: A major concern about new technologies like IT is how much they impact existing media and behavior, particularly in reducing time on these behaviors .Three highly-publicized early studies of the initial impact of IT indicated it was reducing time on both social life and mass media use. However, a number of high-quality national surveys since then – from the Pew Center, the General Social Survey (GSS), the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) and the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) -- have not replicated these results. Indeed, they find some support for Internet and other IT use sometimes being associated with increased social life and media use (especially reading). The present report examines whether Internet users spend less time involved in arts events and other leisure activities. It uses data from two separate national surveys about the public’s arts and leisure participation (the GSS2002 and the SPPA2008) to examine whether users of IT participate less in various arts activities, perhaps as a substitute for attending live performances and exhibits. Both show that, even though the two studies used different IT questions and examined different arts activities over different years, progressively higher arts participation was found among Internet users, generally by heavier Internet users. Moreover, the relation continues to hold after education (the major predictor of arts participation), income, age and other predictors of arts activity are controlled. The SPPA data also show that users and heavier IT users are also more active in a variety of other free time activities like movies, volunteering and sports. These results are consistent with a “Newtonian” model of behavior, in which “bodies in motion stay in motion”, so that IT use becomes a away of extending or enhancing live attendance rather than replacing it. However, the results also raise questions about whether these correlations result from a “response set” of respondents overestimating their activity participation.


Beyond the online/offline divide: How youth’s online and offline civic activities converge / Fadi Hirzalla  & Liesbet van Zoonen                                                                                  

Abstract: In this paper, we investigate whether and how young people combine online and offline civic activities in modes of participation. We discuss four participation modes in which online and offline activities may converge: Politics, Activism, Consumption and Sharing. Applying confirmatory factor analysis to survey data about the civic participation among Dutch youth (aged 15 to 25 years; N=808), we find that online and offline activities are combined in the Politics, Activism and Sharing modes, and that these three modes correlate significantly with each other. Conversely, the Consumption mode can only be validated as a separate offline participation mode. Our results confirm the conclusion of previous studies that youth’s participation patterns are relatively dependent of mode, and add that their participation is concurrently relatively independent of place (offline versus online).



Reports and Communications


Online Polygamy or Virtual Bride:  Cyber-Ethnographic Research /  Uğur Batı & Bünyamin Atıcı

Abstract: The developments which were experienced in the communication and technology area made internet an important part of the daily life. In this respect, with the development of internet, the changes in the social structure are closely connected with the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors of the people. In the study, the phenomenon of virtual fellow-wife and polygamy are researched are analyzed. Qualitative research which is based on the observation combined with a survey and in-depth interviews is carried out in accordance with the ethnographic research. In the research, we see that two arguments such as “I have been never remorseful because I am brought/I come as a fellow wife virtually” and “Bringing a fellow wife is not a question, it is our tradition” showed the strongest attitudes.


From database to knowledge: The terrorist and organized criminal search database/ Zorica Stanimirović  & Darko Trifunović

Abstract: : Information and communication technologies (ICT) are taking an increasingly important part in teaching, learning and communication between all the participants in the educational process.  Inspired by numerous examples of successful implementation of the ICT in the constructivist, problem-based learning situations, in this paper we present a powerful educational and practical tool: the Terrorist and Organized Criminal Search Database (TOC-s). It is a dynamic database which offers comprehensive information on global terrorist network and helps researchers, analysts, students and others working to prevent terrorism. It is result of a joint project realized by the Faculty of Security Studies and Faculty of Mathematics, University of Belgrade, with the support of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. Through the TOC-s project, we have successfully unified the perspectives of help seeking and information searching, within the context of ICT-based learning situation. An online collaboration learning environment is designed to facilitate students in group collaboration and to coordinate and monitor the learning process. Besides its educational function, the TOC-s database has important applicative role in the national security system, as the additional powerful measure in protecting state borders.


Software Review


                HLM 7 / Gregory J. Palardy