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Public Insight Lab seeks to catalyze social media research on campus

Journalism

University Communication, April 26, 2022

Public Insight Lab seeks to catalyze social media research on campus

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications launched a new interdisciplinary research lab in April, with support from the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium, the Methodology and Evaluation Research Core Facility and in collaboration with the Nebraska Public Policy Center.

The Public Insight Lab will fuel social media research on campus using state-of-the-art social and digital media analytics software. Faculty affiliated with the lab engage with researchers across campus to enhance existing and future research projects with social and digital media analysis.

“A staggering amount of data is created every day through social media,” said Valerie Jones, seaton professor of Journalism in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications and founder of the Public Insight Lab. “By analyzing social media content we gain new insight and information to support our campus, our community and the world.”

There are a variety of ways to incorporate social media research into classes and also current and future research projects, Jones said. For example, social media research software can be used to collect health information posted by social media users, which can provide a picture of public health on a college campus or in a community.

The Public Insight Lab is already engaged in a health-related social media project in Lincoln. Developed with the Lincoln Mayor’s office, the Public Insight Lab is using social media research to better understand how vaccination information should be communicated and how messages about vaccination should be framed.

Additional projects are also under consideration, including a project using images posted to social media to map, monitor and tell stories about social unrest around the world. Another would seek to understand how water issues and droughts are framed in social and news media state by state and how that may influence policy.

“Social media research is applicable to every discipline,” said Jones. “It goes beyond media and media research. It can be useful in ag, public health, engineering and even understanding climate resilience.”

To engage research across the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and from other institutions, the Public Insight Lab is hosting an inaugural workshop on social media research on May 6. The free Zoom workshop is open to any faculty member or student with an interest in learning more about how social media data can be used for academic research can be used and the tools available to support it.

To learn more about the Public Insight Lab and the free Zoom workshop, “Tools & Training for Social Media Research,” please visit the College of Journalism and Mass Communications website.

Researchers interested in engaging in the Public Insight Lab user group, working with the lab on current projects, or including the lab in project proposals can contact the Public Insight Lab at publicinsightlab@unl.edu.


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