DML: Thinking through Code: DIY data-mining and the politics of off-topic forums


In this hands-on workshop, we will look beyond such highly-visible platforms as Twitter and Facebook to explore the rich sociality and peculiar methodological challenges posed by web-based messageboards. From gem collectors to football fanatics, these easy-to-miss spaces reveal ideologically-diverse participants discussing politically-charged topics with a tone of mutual respect. But to better understand these compelling interactions, we need a systematic way to provide context and history when we observe them in action.

Incorporating hands-on demos and observations from our on-going research, we will share the assistive software tools we are developing to collect, analyze, and visualize messageboard interactions. Participants will also have the chance to try out several DIY tools that they can deploy immediately in their own research.

These demos will serve as a springboard for brainstorming solutions to common research challenges and help us think through the theoretical and ethical implications of DIY data-mining as a methodology. In our own research, the “translation” of online interactions into code forced us to think about the tacit assumptions that lay beneath our primary research questions. Using this translational process as a model, the workshop will break into mini-groups, each tasked with working through the implications of a particular data-mining ontology.