COSMOS Researchers Win Best Paper Award for Research into Australian Blogosphere

Faculty Excellence nominee Nitin Agarwal. Photo by Ben Krain.

UA Little Rock researchers at the Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies (COSMOS) received the Best Paper Award for the paper, “Developing Situational Awareness from Blogosphere: An Australian Case Study,” from the 11th International Conference on Social Media Technologies, Communication, and Informatics held in Barcelona, Spain.

The study’s authors include Mainuddin Shaik, a doctoral student from Andhra Pradesh, India, Dr. Muhammad Nihal Hussain, data scientist at Equifax, Dr. Zachary Stine, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Central Arkansas, and Dr. Nitin Agarwal, Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy endowed chair, distinguished professor of information science, and the founding director of COSMOS.

“Social media’s increasing proliferation provides great opportunities for gaining situational awareness to assist with strategic policy making, particularly in defense, security, diplomacy, and foreign policy. Our study of the Australian blogosphere identifies influential topics and discourse movers,” Dr. Agarwal said. “Being awarded the best paper is very rewarding. I am extremely proud of our students that can demonstrably conduct such a high quality of internationally competitive research.”

The study of the Australian blogosphere identifies influential topics and discourse movers. The researchers analyzed more than 20,000 blog posts and more than 10,000 comments from July 2019 to December 2020. The researchers analyzed Australian blog posts that dealt with diplomacy, defense, trade tension surrounding Australia and China, and election-related discourse in Australia.

“Our results showed that Australian bloggers were dominant and discussed the topics of interest compared to Russian and U.S. bloggers,” Shaik said. “The Australian blogosphere simultaneously discussed climate change along with defense-related topics, and they prefer to give attention to long-term topics over short-term topics.”

The results can help policy makers reach informed decisions, visualize trending topics over time, and discover influential topics, as well as help political scientists and sociologists mine key concerns from influential discourse.

“Analyzing topics of interest from online discourse can be challenging,” Shaik said. “Our results show that COVID-19 discourse absorbs much of the attention of bloggers during the time period considered, even though no COVID-related keywords were incorporated in the data collection. Our findings suggest that a topic can be influential even when it is not trending and vice-versa.”

The research was supported by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Office of Naval Research, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, National Science Foundation, Australian DSTO, Entergy, and Arkansas Research Alliance. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding organizations. The researchers gratefully acknowledge the support.

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