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Social media research grant awarded to UALR professors

Submitted by Melissa Ibbotson on September 17, 2011 – 12:41 pmNo Comment

A new phase in social media research will begin at UALR, thanks to a National Science Foundation grant awarded to two UALR professors.

Assistant professor of information science, Nitin Agarwal, and distinguished professor of information science and management, Rolf Wigand, were awarded the grant, which will provide the means to study how blogs contribute to collective action movements. Agarwal and Wigand will receive $402,191 of the $742,044 grant, with the other $339,853 going to Merlyna Lim at Arizona State University.

“[We are interested] in how sentiments, opinions, positions that people have …  grow into something more,” Wigand said. “Eventually [the idea] may get translated into some kind of action.”

Agarwal and Wigand will be focusing specifically on blogs written by Muslim women for their study. Agarwal said the reason for this target group is that these women have no other outlet for their opinions, and they hope to see where “collective action” begins.

The team will first have to develop the methods they will use to analyze all of the data they will collect. Wigand said one of the problems is that traditional methods of research will not work well for this project, so new methods must be created.

“You could sample [the blogs],” Wigand said. “But you might miss a crucial day, where a decision was made that really explains many of the things that happened later.”

Wigand and Agarwal said the data they collect can be used to analyze how groups rally around political policies and candidates, as well as many other things. They also hope to figure out a way to predict collective actions before they happen, based on what is going on in blogs and other social media platforms.

Agarwal said, “Not only computer scientists, but also social scientists, can also come together and work on the problem … and in a way, help all the disciplines grow.”

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