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New frontiers of automated content analysis in the social sciences

On 1-3 July 2015, a conference on the “New frontiers of automated content analysis in the social sciences” took place at the University of Zurich. Automated content analysis (ACA) is one of the key fields of methodological innovation in the social sciences, not least because there is a need to analyze the growing number of digitally available text collections.

The goal of the conference was to bring together computational linguists and social scientists in order to improve the dialogue between the two research communities and to exploit mutual benefits for the advancement of ACA in the social sciences.

The conference featured presentations of 14 papers and two keynote speeches, equally divided between social scientists and computational linguists. Kathleen McKeown, Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University, opened the conference with a very inspiring overview of the possibilities of data-driven approaches in the fields of media streaming, social influence in online media, and semantic networks. Justin Grimmer from Stanford’s Political Science Department concluded with a highly stimulating keynote speech on the communication strategies of members of the United States Congress, which he researches using large text corpora of press releases, floor debates, and social media texts.

The conference sessions provided a platform for both promising newcomers and established researchers to present their work related to big text data analytics. In general, the presentations – including three by NCCR members – centered on the question of how complex relational data can be extracted from large text collections, as well as on topic models and trend analysis. The explicit interdisciplinary focus greatly enhanced the learning effect for both disciplines and created opportunities for future collaborations.

The conference was jointly organized by the Stein Rokkan Chair of the European University Institute, the Department of Political Science at the University of Zurich, and the NCCR Democracy.

For further information, see www.aca-zurich-2015.org.

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