Big Textual Corpora and Mixed-Method Approach. Analysis of the M5S Institutional Blog in Rome.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 26 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Maria Paola FAGGIANO, Communication and Social Research Department (CoRiS) - Sapienza Rome, Italy
Loris DI GIAMMARIA, Communication and Social Research Department (CoRiS) - Sapienza Rome, Italy
The technological tools now available make it possible to download large bodies of textual data from the internet, to undertake varied and complex analyses, and to combine a myriad of research techniques and tools. They also make it possible to harvest the fruits of fertile interaction between extensive and intensive research, automated and non-automated techniques and qualitative and quantitative approaches, applied to either the global population or specific samples thereof. Intended as a contribution to big data analysis, this piece presents the most significant results of a study into the political communication of the Rome branch of the M5S, or Five Stars Movement, conducted through analysis of its blog. The empirical basis of this study was a big text corpus, comprising posts, comments and images, which brought together all blog material produced between the period immediately prior to the May 2013 administrative elections and the present day. This corpus was subjected to advanced statistical text analysis, as well as targeted hermeneutic and content analysis. Semiotic analyses of visual material were also performed, in addition to network analyses of blog contributors and analyses of communicational efficacy. The research team comprised experts from across several disciplines (General Sociology, Semiotics, Computer Science, Statistics, Economics) and a variety of institutions, including La Sapienza University, ISTAT and the Ministry of the Economy. The team worked in constant collaboration, adopting a mixed-method research approach. In addition to yielding interesting substantive results pertaining to an iconic case of institutional communication in Italy’s modern political arena, this integrated research approach made it possible to conduct systematic data quality checks and to obtain results for a range of research subjects: cultural products, individuals, groups and relations systems.