Innovation charity Nesta has grant funded a number of research projects that explore two dimensions of how big and open data can be used for the common good. Firstly, how it can be used by charities to develop better products and services and secondly, how it can help those interested in civil society better understand social action and civil society activity. The Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI) is one of five organisations to receive funding under the scheme to explore how data–driven methods, such as open data analysis and social media analysis, can help us understand informal social action, often referred to as ‘below the radar activity’ in new ways.
The project brings together researchers from both UPSI and Cardiff’s School of Computer Sciences to examine how social media increasingly shapes and frames processes of community mobilisation following major crime events. In so doing, it illuminates social reactions that are frequently ‘seen but unnoticed’ in the aftermath of high profile crimes. Pivoting around several case studies of community mobilization in difficult and emotionally tense situations, the analysis distils some generalisable lessons about how social media are transforming the ways contemporary social life is organised.
The early results of the study have been published as a working paper ‘Soft Facts’ and Spontaneous Community Mobilisation: The Role of Rumour After Major Crime Events written by Colin Roberts, Martin Innes, Alun Preece and Irena Spasic.