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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M researchers to analyze #RiseUpOctober in real time

Rise+Up+October
Photo by By Regan Brunsvold
Rise Up October

As activists take to New York City streets to protest mass incarceration and police violence Saturday, researchers at A&M will document and analyze social media conversation associated with the movement. 

The Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media and Culture, the Office of Instructional and Research Computing and the Interface Ecology Lab have teamed up to look at the online conversation surrounding #RiseUpOctober, a hashtag referring to a series of organized marches against police violence Thursday through Saturday in New York City, as it happens. 

The researchers will use the Humanities Visualization Space, a large wall of monitors that display social media feeds from sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and other technologies developed at A&M to collect data about the event. IDHMC Director Laura Mandell said the HVS will also show live-streamed videos if major outbursts or radically unexpected events occur.

“We will be reflecting on this stream of activity by using a major piece of software developed here at A&M, ‘ideamache,’” Mandell said. “This software was developed by Andruid Kerne at his Interface Ecology Lab, and it allows people to capture moments from the stream, bring them into a workspace and comment on them and think about them.”

Mandell said covering an event of this magnitude with the HVS will help those in attendance gain a close-up perspective on the events from miles away.

Elizabeth Grumbach, research associate and project manager for the IDHMC, said the way the events in New York were organized and set into motion, as well as how they will be reported on throughout the weekend, represents a shifting paradigm in how information and ideas are shared worldwide.

“Just like the Occupy Wall Street and Arab Spring movements from a few years ago, we’re seeing these social movements start or get fostered online in ways that haven’t really been possible before this moment in history,” Grumbach said. “It’’s important for us as a culture and community at A&M to learn how these things are being organized and learn how important social media is to foster these movements. It’s important to know how they’re happening.”

Mandell said she hopes using these new technologies will raise that same awareness locally.

“As people are by now aware, there is extreme concern over the disproportionate number of African Americans targeted by our legal system,” Mandell said. “Amnesty International has actually, long ago, categorized the mass incarceration of black Americans as a human rights violation committed by the United States. Whether that is true or not is the ‘discussion’ undertaken by this march, these events.”

Grumbach said she hopes visitors walk away with a greater sense of how impactful social media has become in allowing all voices to be heard.

“We’re hearing all these voices that we didn’t necessarily get to hear before the invention of the internet,” Grumbach said. “As we continue to study social media, we see a lot of new voices, and that’s really important.”

#RiseUpOctober: Engage and Build the Archive will take place from 1-4 p.m. Saturday in LAAH 433 and 448. The event is open to the public.
 

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