Encountering #Feminism on Twitter: Reflections on a research collaboration between social scientists and computer scientists

Steve Kirkwood, Viviene E. Cree, Daniel Winterstein, Alex Nuttgens, Jenni Sneddon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The growth of social media presents an unparalleled opportunity for the study of social change. However, the speed and scale of this growth presents challenges for social scientists, particularly those whose methodologies tend to rely on the qualitative analysis of data that are gathered first-hand. Alongside the growth of social media, companies have emerged which have developed tools for interrogating ‘big data’, although often unconnected from social scientists. It is self-evident that collaboration between social scientists and social media analysis companies offers the potential for developing methods for analysing social change on large scales, bringing together their respective expertise in technological innovations and knowledge of social science. What is less well-known is how such a partnership might work in practice. This article presents an example of such a collaboration, highlighting the opportunities and challenges that arose in the context of an exploration of feminism on Twitter. As will be shown, machine-learning technologies allow the analysis of data on a scale that would be impossible for human analysts, yet such approaches also heighten challenges regarding the study of social change and communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-779
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number4
Early online date15 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • collaboration
  • feminisim
  • social media
  • Twitter
  • big data
  • machine-learning
  • qualitative analysis


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