data science, digital politics, smart cities...|jonathan.bright@oii.ox.ac.uk

New Paper in European Union Politics

I have just published a paper in European Union Politics, together with Diego Garzia, Joseph Lacey and Alex Trechsel of the EUI. The paper was the fruition of a long term research project examining potential ways of changing the European Parliament’s electoral system, focussed in particular on allowing people to vote for parties in any member state. It seems particularly relevant today when protest parties such as Syriza and Podemos attract support (and criticism) from well outside of their own borders.

The paper explores what would happen under conditions of such transnationalisation, examining both what types of people would be likely to vote “transnationally” and the extent to which overall levels of representation would improve. Great to have it in print.

GE2015 on social media

Last week we had a sort of social media hackathon in honour of the UK’s election, looking at the reaction generated on social media. We took what I believe was a fairly novel approach to the analysis, by looking at social media reaction to individual candidates in constituencies (rather than just general hashtags or party leaders). The map below shows what the election results would have been if @mentions of these local candidates had been votes

Twitter-election

We are still digesting the data so I’m not yet sure what the main findings are really, though we did get some interesting stuff on the diverging social media “reach” of different candidates, and the way Twitter impact and vote has different relationships depending on the party.

TwitterMentions-line

Check out our full range of work here. More to follow…

By |2015-05-12T10:26:37+01:00May 12th, 2015|Politics and Democracy, Social Media|0 Comments

TICTEC 2015

A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation at TICTEC, mySociety‘s inaugural research conference on the impact of civic technology. It was an inspiring event with so many presentations from different organisations trying to make a difference in countries all over the world.

TICTeC-logos_general-with-year-263x300

There were a few academics there and hopefully we added some value too. I gave a presentation on a current project we are running with ULB exploring the dynamics of the website lapetition.be.

Threshold Scatter

It was interesting however to see how differently academia and civic tech conceptualise research, with us academics coming in for some stick for taking years to produce research which makes it difficult to integrate into the development of new tools. But there were also lots of good examples of researchers working with civic tech organisations to try out new ways of reaching people or do research on impact – this sort of stuff is the future of political science in my opinion.

Information Seeking Behaviour and Election Predictions

My colleague Taha Yasseri and I recently received a grant from the Fell Fund to extend our work on information seeking behaviour around election time, which has allowed us to bring Eve Ahearn on board on the project. Over the next few months we’re going to be really expanding the amount of elections we cover in the research, and also look at different types of information seeking signal. We’ll also be firing up the project’s research blog which we started up a few months ago. Eve has just put up the first post on subjectivity in data collection.

By |2015-02-09T14:57:09+00:00February 9th, 2015|Research, Social Web|0 Comments

Measuring Ministerial Career Dynamics

I have a new article out in West European Politics with my colleagues Holger Döring and Conor Little which looks at the career dynamics of ministers in seven European countries over the last 50 or so years. We were interested in factors relating to their stability in the job to a large extent, but also more general things such as how power gradually turns over in most democracies. We find an important diversion in the career trajectories of senior and junior ministers in most countries, with a small core of senior ministers staying in power for long periods of time whilst a larger and more fluid mass of junior ministers move in and out of power more frequently.

WEP

Ministerial careers isn’t a core area of substantive research for me, but there was a fairly extensive computational element to the project which did get me interested. It makes use of the wonderful Parlgov political data structure, which was really useful for both organising collaborative data collection and storing the data.

This project was also my first foray into using SQL seriously for academic research. An SQL database is a wonderfully neat format for organising research projects if you’ve got lots of different types of data which only need to be mashed together for analysis. It does save time on the recombining element as well. But it does create a bit of overhead and I’m still not sure it is in the core computational social science toolkit (unless you are in Hadoop territory with the size of your dataset, in which case the SQL equivalent Hive really comes into it’s own).

By |2015-01-19T15:29:15+00:00January 19th, 2015|Research, Social Science Computing|3 Comments

Measuring Online News Consumption

Ofcom has just released a report on measuring online news consumption and supply, which I contributed to. It tackles the question of how to meaningfully measure the size of a news outlet’s audience in the digital age. This is a key issue for a regulator, in for example deciding whether to allow a takeover, and it’s also one that’s far from clear now that a lot of news consumption takes place online.

Ofcom - Measuring Online News Consumption and Supply

The report examines all sorts of different metrics which regulators could use, from amount of visitors to the website and time on page to amount of social sharing. It also highlights that while the best metric isn’t clear the detail offered is considerably better than what could be achieved in the offline age, and hence the digital environment also presents the opportunity to really understand audience behaviour as never before.

Read the report here.

By |2014-11-10T10:42:10+00:00November 10th, 2014|News|2 Comments

Digital Politics in Western Democracies

I recently had the chance to review Cristian Vaccari’s excellent new book Digital Politics in Western Democracies. Vaccari has assembled a great cross country comparative dataset on various indicators relating to politics and the internet, and provides a refreshing contrast to work which has been largely US centric so far. Have a look at the review here.

By |2014-10-29T18:09:54+00:00October 29th, 2014|Politics and Democracy, Research|0 Comments

Can electoral popularity be predicted using socially generated big data?

New article published with Taha Yasseri in IT – Information Technology. A short piece making the case for theoretically informed social media predictions, which is part of a larger project we are running with support from the Fell Fund over the next year or so. Read it here: http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/itit.2014.56.issue-5/itit-2014-1046/itit-2014-1046.xml?format=INT

By |2014-10-01T09:13:28+01:00October 1st, 2014|Research, Social Web|0 Comments

#indyref on Wikipedia

My colleague Taha Yasseri and I are currently working on a Fell Fund project on social media data and election prediction, looking especially at data from Google and Wikipedia (first paper out soon; will also be presenting on that at IPP 2014 which should be great). As part of that we thought we’d have a bit of fun looking at Scotland’s independence referendum on Wikipedia.

For election prediction the method is relatively straightforward: examine readership stats on the party Wikipedia pages of the country in question, and see which page is read the most (of course that doesn’t correspond straight away to election results – would that life were so simple – and the idea of the project is to see what corrections and biases need to be accounted for to make it work). It isn’t quite so clear how to do that for Scotland, but (just for fun really) we compared the following pages:

United_Kingdom-Scotland

First we look at the UK and Scotland -> interesting how Scotland has leapfrogged the UK in the last days of the independence campaign. Points to a yes victory?

Union_Jack-Saltire

In terms of flags, though, the Union Jack is well ahead of the Saltire, peaking in the last few days. Is it a last minute outbreak of unionism?

Fish_and_Chips-Haggis

In terms of national dishes, meanwhile, Haggis has been dominating Fish and Chips for the full period of the campaign, with interest in Haggis especially spiking in the last couple of days.

Well, one of these graphs will predict the winner of the referendum: we just don’t know which one 😉 More seriously, I think its interesting how most of these terms are spiking in the days before the vote, showing again how the social web really responds to political events.

UPDATE: Taha has passed me the comparison of the Yes and No campaign pages, as below. Yes for a narrow win following months of No dominance – you heard it here first.

Yes_Scotland-Better_Together

By |2014-09-18T13:39:53+01:00September 18th, 2014|Social Web|0 Comments