Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Birmingham Meet-up for the BAAL Language and New Media Special Interest Group

On Thursday, 30 November, four members of the Language and New Media SIG gathered for the first local meet up for those of us based in the West Midlands area. Based on the principles of Adam Grant’s Reciprocity Ring, I’d invited everyone who attended to share a little about their work and one research-related need they would like the others in the group to help with.

The discussions about our work reminded us again that as linguists working with online data, the methods of preparing and analysing materials are still very much in flux.  Each of us used a different tool for analysing their material. Jai MacKenzie has been using NVivo in combination with a grounded theory approach to identify themes in her Mumsnet data. Caroline Tagg has been using the XML tagger developed by Matt Gee at Birmingham City University to code her corpus of text messages.  Erika Darics used bespoke tools (developed by her husband) to sort and prepare the messages she analysed in her PhD thesis.  And I’ve been using Excel sheets and pivot tables to sort my way through a 1.6 million Tweet data set which I’m working on at the minute.
It seems that there is still a long way to go in finding appropriate ways to deal with the complexity of the materials that ‘language and new media’ open up to scrutiny.

It’s clear that we need to work collaboratively in order to explore the multifaceted nature of these materials.  For example, in my data, I need to be able to examine image as well as text, and I want to be able to model the interactional patterns that the meta-data of posts bring to light (as tools like Gephi do).  In other cases, it might be useful to bring together ethnographic and corpus-based techniques.  One of the aims of our SIG is to help people make connections and develop models of good practice for mixed methods of analysis.  So if you have expertise you would like to share, or need some help with working out which methods might work for your project, please join our group and join the discussions on our mailing list and Facebook page. 

You can email our SIG Communications Officer (Bettina Beinhof) who can add you to the list if you’d like to join us!

In terms of helping each other resolve particular research challenges, we were able to offer Jai some suggestions about how she could refine her methods for coding data.  And we offered to read a draft of a chapter that Erika is working on.  We couldn’t between us teach me how to use Gephi J but I have some suggestions of people to contact for further advice.

If you’d like to join us for the next meet up in Birmingham, watch out for more dates in the New Year or feel free to organise your own local meet up.