For a final project in my "Islam in Western Contexts" class, I decided to explore the English-language discourse surrounding Islam and Muslims on Twitter. In class we had learned about the ways in which orientalism is perpetuated by mainstream media. As social media are beginning to fill similar roles as mainstream media platforms, I wanted to compare them.
Furthermore, as some research in the context of social movements has described how hashtags can link tweets to greater themes or identities, I also wanted to explore how hashtags were being used—namely, could hashtags be used to elicit distinct themes within the narrative space.
I gathered tweets for roughly 24 hours. I then used Gephi to visualize the relationships between frequently used hashtags in original tweets, where two hashtags are connected by an edge if they have been tweeted together. There appear to be five distinct clusters of hashtags. I then qualitatively coded a random sample of 10% of the original tweets belonging to each cluster.
From the qualitative coding, I found that the distinct hashtag clusters were primarily due to bots repeatedly tweeting the same or similar tweets. Controlling for bot activity, there was little difference in the narratives and themes I saw across clusters. Furthermore, most tweets from bots were incredibly politically polarized. This suggests that using hashtags to gain an understanding of politically polarized narrative spaces may bias the results towards bot-broadcasted narratives.
Through qualitative coding I elicited five orientalist themes: Islam as a hostile agent, violent Muslim men, clash of civilizations, refugees and Muslims as invaders, and negative news. Not only were the orientalist tropes seen in mainstream media and Western academia overwhelmingly present on Twitter, they existed more explicitly and with no veneer of objectivity or neutrality. As social media become more influential in Americans' framing of cultural and political events, the effects of framings and narratives present an important opportunity for further research.
I have been a part of the University of Washington emCOMP Lab since autumn 2015, studying (mis)information on Twitter in the context of crisis events. With the mentorship of senior lab members, I have learned a lot about the process of academic research, including data collection, qualitative coding, and quantitative and interpretivist analysis. Over the past year I've used Python and Twitter APIs for data collection, SQL databases for data storage, and Gephi and Tableau for data visualization. I've also learned how to assess the benefits and limitations of different analytical approaches, and how to communicate findings in an academic paper. Right now, I'm applying everything I've learned through studying politicized narratives in the context of shooting events
I love being able to study topics that are so politically and culturally relevant - our work with fake news was even featured on the local news.
Alternative Narratives of Crisis Events: Communities and Social Botnets Engaged on Social Media
A. Conrad Nied, Leo Stewart, Emma Spiro, Kate Starbird
Poster Presentation at CSCW 2017
This paper summarizes my work in a class on qualitative research methods. This class really piqued my interest in qualitative methods, and I enjoyed all steps of the process, from conducting interviews and observations, to qualitatively coding findings, to reading existing research and composing a final report.
Conducting interviews and qualitatively coding the results is exciting to me for several reasons. Firstly, I must set aside my own biases in order to ask the right questions and see patterns in the results. The more that I am able to tune out my preconceptions, the more I learn from the interviewee. This has taught me to recognize where my prejudices lie and to push beyond them. Secondly, I see capturing someone's story as a privilege. I love to learn how interviewees see the world, and I always come away from an interview with a new perspective.
I spent both summer 2015 and summer 2016 as an intern at Motorola Solutions, based in Seattle. Through this experience, I built on my previous knowledge of Android development. This project was especially interesting, as I worked on an Android client of a large and complex communication platform. I also had the opportunity to develop an Android Wear module to work with the Android mobile app.
My coworkers and mentors prioritized test-driven development and resilient code. Correspondingly, I learned a lot about testing code from all angles, including unit tests and integration tests.
Working with a team of three other HCDE students, I developed a Tableau visualization that displayed both bike thefts and bike racks in Seattle, with the goal of allowing users to find a safe place to park their bike. My role was primarily data collecting and cleaning, although I also assisted with designing and building the Tableau visualization. The visualization also allowed users to filter by year to view temporal bike theft trends.
This paper was the product of an Honors class on the politics of public space. Our group of three explored the extent to which Capitol Hill served as a safe space for Seattle the LGBT+ community using interviews, observational studies, and theory. This project was especially exciting for me, as I learned how to talk about the issues facing the LGBT+ community in an educated way and had a chance to share stories from the LGBT+ community embedded in the greater context of social movements.
My role in the research was primarily conducting interviews with community members, along with reviewing existing research. While we all discussed our findings, this paper represents my own analysis of the findings.
This paper was the culmination of a quarter of work involving interviews, field observations, and a survey, as well as a grounding in other research work. Through this assignment, I learned about various qualitative methods of research, as well as how to qualitatively code findings and communicate the results. The subject of this study was Startup Hall, a local startup incubator where startups can rent desk space.
This internship during the summer 2014 gave me my first taste of Android development. With mentorship from a team, I added features to and resolved bugs in an internal app used to interface with Internet of Things devices. I also experienced Agile development for the first time, and learned about writing code in a production environment.