This is the abstract for a paper I presented in November at the Knowledge/Culture/Social Change International Conference, organized by the Center for Cultural Research at the University of Western Sydney.
Datamining Facebook through its Marketing Tools
The advent of new media has enabled not just exponentially faster and easier ways of gathering and analyzing data through statistical knowledge but also the conversion of areas of knowledge that before were inaccessible or impractical to access in massive automatized ways into machine processable, numerical data.
A key example of this are post-demographics in which a wide range of tastes (including political and ideological preferences) are measured through the scraping and analyzing of profiles available in online social networks. Though the origins of post-demographics and the data gathering structures that enable it can be traced to marketing needs for getting to know the consumer, this paper poses that post-demographics can be used beyond this. It proposes a conceptual hacking of tools intended for mobilizing data for marketing knowledge, such as the Create an Ad tool in Facebook, to use them and the data they provide for research, specially research directed at studying contemporary political movements which have recently taken to online social networks as space to mobilize and amplify their causes.
A case study on the University of Puerto Rico student movement is presented as example of how data found in Facebook can shed light on issues such as the representability of those participating in the movement relative to the overall student population.
Nowadays the idea of a digital humanities is gathering steam as a way to revitalize the field, yet it is confronted by the problem that even if there is a huge amount of data being gathered online, increasingly this is owned by private companies. This places limitations on making the data accessible for research. In this scenario, the idea of conceptual hacking of marketing tools for gathering data for research surfaces as an option worth exploring.