Big data, artificial intelligence and social media pose major challenges to all sectors of the social sciences and humanities (SSH), not just regarding social issues but also scientific practice itself. In order to figure out how to respond to these new developments in an appropriate manner, the Platform Digital Infrastructure SSH (part of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science’s SSH Sector Plan) launched a call for proposals on this topic.
The aim is, among others, to increase and strengthen interdisciplinary SSH research into digitisation, as well as strengthening digital infrastructure facilities and interdisciplinary collaboration between the social sciences and humanities in this field.
Read more about the projects of Julia Noordegraaf, Bernhard Rieder, Tobias Blanke and Patricia Lulof below.
TwiXL: An infrastructure for cross-media research on public debates – Julia Noordegraaf
TwiXL develops an infrastructure that enables SSH researchers to systematically examine current and emerging public debates on crucial societal issues in the Netherlands. The proposed infrastructure will be developed along the following three axes:
- Deep – continuing and making accessible the TwiNL collection, containing 50% of all Dutch language tweets (2011-), allowing for a systematic exploration of the Dutch Twitter sphere on any societal topic.
- Broad – curating and making accessible Dutch language collections of social media and web data, as well as newspaper reports, radio and television broadcasts on prominent societal issues (2020-2025), enabling innovative cross-media research.
- Live – facilitating real-time streaming data processing and analysis of Twitter-data, allowing for live monitoring of online public discourse.
Access to all three collections will be provided through a user-friendly web interface and Jupyter Notebooks for more advanced analyses. To develop the new infrastructure and demonstrate its value for research, a team of developers at SURF, KB, and NISV and two postdocs—at UvA and RUG—will closely work together with SSH researchers in proof-of-concept research projects. The infrastructure will be embedded in the CLARIAH Media Suite and the planned ODISSEI Media Content Analysis Laboratory.
Capture and Analysis Tools for Social Media Research (CAT4SMR) – Bernhard Rieder
The project seeks to stabilize and further develop a set of existing and heavily used tools for the collection and analysis of social media data (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, 4chan). Developed within the framework of the UvA’s Digital Methods Initiative, our tools – Netvizz, DMI-TCAT, YouTube Data Tools, and 4CAT – have been mainstays of the Dutch and international research landscape for years, allowing researchers to make sense of these increasingly dominant online platforms and the cultural practices they host. Due to continuous changes in data access (e.g. APIs), legal context (e.g. GDPR), data formats, and terms of service (TOS), researchers’ access to social media platforms has been rendered more difficult and the mission our tools strive to fulfill – easy but robust access to platform data and analysis for researchers in the humanities and social sciences – has become more challenging. Providing research infrastructures, in this context, is much more than building tools. We therefore seek funding not only for sustainable technical development, support, and maintenance, but for the increasingly difficult work of negotiating access conditions with platform owners, for documentation and teaching resources, for testing the reliability and reproducibility of results, and for the continuous furthering of methodological innovation.
Population Scale Network Analysis for Social Sciences and Humanities (POPNET-SSH) -A Digital Infrastructure and Research Community – Eelke Heemskerk and Tobias Blanke
This proposal embarks on an ambitious yet highly necessary and timely endeavour: the setting up of a novel open digital infrastructure and research community that unlocks longitudinal social network data on the entire population of the Netherlands. POPNET-SSH enables new exciting research on unique data consisting of demographic information and time-stamped family, work, school and neighborhood network relations in an anonymized as well as ethically and legally responsible manner.
The outcome is a research community centered around a first-of-a-kind research infrastructure tailored in terms of hard- and software for large-scale social network analysis. It for the first time allows scholars in the SSH domain (and beyond) without specialised technical computing skills to derive population-scale network statistics.
Rich methods from social network analysis and network science can then be applied to obtain unique insights that may unveil new and previously unknown knowledge about the complexity of the Dutch population. From this, scholars and policymakers alike can derive actionable insights into key issues in the SSH domain, including (but not limited to), stratification, segregation, substantive social change, and UN sustainable development goals such as reducing inequality.
PURE3D. An Infrastructure for the Publication and Preservation of 3D Scholarship – Costas Papadopoulos (Maastricht University) and Patricia Lulof
Three-dimensional models and reconstructions have been used in the last thirty years across many fields in the humanities and social sciences to bridge time and space; to become immersed in the past through virtual worlds; to explore physical artefacts from multiple angles; to allow interactive close-ups and see features not visible with the naked eye; and to analyse sociocultural phenomena and simulate the experience and perception of objects and spaces. Despite this plethora of research, 3D digitisation initiatives by cultural institutions, and a growing number of higher education institutions teaching 3D skills, methods, and theories, no stable infrastructure exists to support this form of knowledge production. PURE3D will fill this gap through four key deliverables: 1) the development of an access infrastructure for viewing interactive 3D models (from single objects to virtual worlds) within the context of a scholarly publication format (3D Scholarly Editions); 2) a preservation repository to deposit raw files, which, due to their size, format, lack of standards etc., are typically inaccessible to researchers beyond the original creators; 3) a conceptual and methodological framework for valorising and evaluating 3D scholarship; and, 4) a centre of excellence for researchers embarking on 3D scholarship.
Other honoured proposals
After a careful review process consisting of several steps, the PDI-SSH accepted 12 out of 33 applications. Read more on the other applications by following the link below: