Of Birds and Butterflies

All my life I’ve loved all kinds of animals but the creatures that hold the biggest space in my heart are insects.

This may be a bit unusual seeing as most people are quite deterred from them, but I personally find them fascinating and beautiful creatures, small yet complex compared to vertebrates. Which is why when Ernesto mentioned that tweets were like butterflies in this week’s DITA lesson I found myself resonating so strongly with the concept. It opened my eyes to view tweets in a completely different and almost natural way than before.

This week we created an app used to collect and archive tweets using keywords and hashtags, we’ve used TAGS, an application created by Martin Hawsey, Twitter Search API to compile all the tweets including the tag #citylis. The exercise taught me how data could be visualised and I’ve learnt several things such as top tweeters and subjects related to them. It’s interesting to see how data could be generated using apps and I wonder how it could be used to aid further research.

When I read Ernesto’s articles on Twitter being used for public evidence and archiving and storing data sets, I started to understand the importance of twitter data being used in research especially in understand today’s trends. Tweets are already recognised to contain significant information about today’s culture and even the Library of Congress now holds an archive of tweets from 2006-2010. In regards to the ethics behind how to use twitter data, I find that scientists should have the right to use data made available to the public as they would in any public situation where data would be gathered. I think Caitlin M. Rivers’s report on ethical standards when using big data does outline how we should treat datasets while respecting privacy and it works just as most ethical standards for scientific research would.

Tweets are like butterflies in more ways than one: they’re small, numerous and contain huge amounts of data important for study, and unless scientists are able to collect samples you can not be expected to learn more about the subject that’s been studies. It has proven its use in past studies such as the one made by JISC relating to the London riots which I find this a particularly interesting example as it does dismiss original ideas relating to the use of social media using data collected from them. It’s important that we study social network data when understanding today’s culture as it plays such an integral part of people’s lives today that it would be irrational not to take it into account.

To conclude, I’ve decided to rename this blog title to lepidoterans, the taxonomic order of butterflies and moths, to respect this metaphor which joins together two things that I love dearly. IĀ  thinkĀ  that if tweets are butterflies than we are the information entomologists that study them!

Advertisements