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Citizenship, Social Media, and Big Data: Current and Future Research in the Social Sciences

December 07, 2016 by Homero Gil de Zúñiga

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This special issue of the Social Science Computer Review provides a sample of the latest strategies employing large data sets in social media and political communication research. The proliferation of information communication technologies, social media, and the Internet, alongside the ubiquity of high-performance computing and storage technologies, has ushered in the era of computational social science. However, in no way does the use of “big data” represent a standardized area of inquiry in any field. This article briefly summarizes pressing issues when employing big data for political communication research. Major challenges remain to ensure the validity and generalizability of findings. Strong theoretical arguments are still a central part of conducting meaningful research. In addition, ethical practices concerning how data are collected remain an area of open discussion. The article surveys studies that offer unique and creative ways to combine methods and introduce new tools while at the same time address some solutions to ethical questions.