Social media and the social sciences: How researchers employ Big Data analytics

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Social media posts are full of potential for data mining and analysis. Recognizing this potential, platform providers increasingly restrict free access to such data. This shift provides new challenges for social scientists and other non-profit researchers who seek to analyze public posts with a purpose of better understanding human interaction and improving the human condition. This paper seeks to outline some of the recent changes in social media data analysis, with a focus on Twitter, specifically. Using Twitter data from a 24-hour period following The Sisters in Spirit Candlelight Vigil, sponsored by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, this article compares three free-use Twitter application programming interfaces for capturing tweets and enabling analysis. Although recent Twitter data restrictions limit free access to tweets, there are many dynamic options for social scientists to choose from in the capture and analysis of Twitter and other social media platform data. This paper calls for critical social media data analytics combined with traditional, qualitative methods to address the developing ‘data gold rush.’

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