The research project Citizen Mindscapes – Detecting Social, Emotional and National Dynamics in Social Media (2016–2018), funded by the Academy of Finland (Digital Humanities programme), includes researchers from five different departments of the University of Helsinki, the University of Eastern Finland, and the University of Turku. The projects brings researchers from the social sciences, the research of digital culture, welfare sociology, language technology and statistical data analysis together to develop new ways of studying social and political interaction in social media.
The object of study in the multidisciplinary project is Suomi24, the most extensive online discussion forum on specific topics in Finland; the material collected from there is analysed thematically, demographically and from the users’ perspective. Providing context for the material creates a view to the development history of online discussion and its sociocultural aspect. Different kinds of analyses are used to draw a picture of the content and character of the discussion; the motivations the users have for using the forum and their experiences in its use are also mapped. The project tests and develops methods suitable for analysing online discussions. The multidisciplinary study interprets the research in social media materials in light of theories in social policy, cultural policy and politics, and generates new ways of studying social and political interaction.
The Citizen Mindscapes consortium studies the Suomi24 material from three points of view:
- investigating the discussion culture in social media;
- developing statistical and language technology methods and visual tools; and
- asking questions, such as what types of interaction can be found in the material, how heated discussions turn into political movements, and how waves of emotion can be identified.
The researchers from the University of Eastern Finland are tasked with forming a comprehensive picture of the people using the Suomi24 website. Questionnaires are used to map issues such as people’s experiences of well-being, health, injustice as well as poverty, and social media as peer support for their fellow human beings.
In addition to the material published via the Language Bank of Finland, the project will produce a book about digital culture, visual tools, and an international conference. The research consortium is led by Professor Jussi Pakkasvirta, D.Soc.Sc., from the Department of Political and Economic Studies of the University of Helsinki. The sub-project of the University of Eastern Finland is led by Juho Saari, D.Soc.Sc., Professor of Welfare Sociology, and Kari Saari, D.Soc.Sc., who works as a Project Researcher for the project.
Professor Juho Saari, juho.saari(at)uef.fi
Project Researcher Kari Saari, kari.saari(at)uef.fi