SOCSEMICS aims at developing a set of integrated methods to address the possible existence in digital public spaces of so-called “bubbles”, or fragmented, polarized communities, by adopting a dual socio-semantic framework — i.e., appraising jointly both the interactional and informational confinement of users. It is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) through a Consolidator Grant, and will be active from june 2018 until May 2023
More precisely, SOCSEMICS aims at addressing a series of fundamental questions pertaining to the existence, structure and dynamics of such bubbles in digital public spaces: how to define and appraise them empirically, how do they form and emerge, which types of topics, claims and actors are mobilized in which of them, which bridges or bottlenecks may interconnect them and, at a higher level, what is the meta-structure of bubbles and what kind of qual-quantitative studies may result from this new type of approach.
In practice, SOCSEMICS will address three current challenges:
- (i) developing a comprehensive theory of reinforcing and self-sustaining socio-semantic communities by appraising the social, semantic and socio-semantic realms simultaneously;
- (ii) drastically improving content analysis by replacing classical distributional approaches with clause analysis, thus enabling quantitative approaches rendering the linguistic complexity of utterances in web corpuses;
- (iii) fostering the interface between these methods and qualitative approaches, especially through a couple of broad case studies, together with the development of interactive platforms implementing the above innovations and facilitating digital social research.