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Aug. 28, 2015, 12:49 p.m.
Aggregation & Discovery
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   August 28, 2015

Regular readers of Nieman Lab will likely be familiar with Media Cloud, the project from MIT’s Center for Civic Media and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society that gathers stories from across the spectrum of media for the purpose of dissecting themes, trends, or other questions around coverage.

In the past, researchers have used it to track how the story of Trayvon Martin’s death evolved, and what shaped the debate around SOPA and PIPA in 2012.

Earlier this year, Media Cloud announced a contest to find new creative research projects that could take advantage of the platform, giving users access to “a range of Media Cloud tools — including Dashboard, Controversy Mapper, and the Media Cloud API — as well as to our searchable archive of 280 million stories collected from U.S. and international online media over the past 7 years.”

This week, 10 teams came together to present some of their research. Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media, has a full writeup on the projects that is worth a read. Here are a few of the projects.

Julia Wejchert and Katherine Ida were interested in breaking down how stories connected to abortion are visualized in the media:

They downloaded thousands of stories about the abortion debate using the Media Cloud tool, then hand-coded the images that appeared in each story, discovering that news articles about abortion rarely show the people most likely to be having abortions. Instead, the visuals of these articles illustrate abortion as an issue about politics, not about patients.

Eric Enrique Borja and a team from the University of Texas used Media Cloud to examine coverage of protests in Ferguson and Baltimore connected to the Black Lives Matter movement. Following the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, they wanted to see if stories connected to the protests contained negative or positive framing:

In both waves of Ferguson protest, Borja sees comparable levels of positive and negative framing. Many stories invoke rioting and looting, but there is also discussion of activists, civil rights, uprisings, protests and demonstrations. By the second wave of Ferguson protests, the negative frame is increasing in power. In Baltimore, there’s a massive disparity between positive and negative frames: there is virtually no media coverage of the events after Freddie Gray’s death that refers to protest, and massive coverage of riots and violence.

Kate Mays and Karin Seth of the Emerging Media Studies program at Boston University retrieved 8,000 stories from Media Cloud, and tracked hashtags around the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision in June.

Mays and Seth find that two narratives ended up dominating the debate after the Supreme Court decision. Those who favored the decision saw it as a civil rights victory, while those who did not invoked the first amendment’s protections of religious freedom to assert a right not to recognize these marriages. They also found extensive evidence that the US decision was influential in an international context, invoked in discussions in Australia and other countries making judicial and legislative decisions around equal marriage.

If you’re interested in Media Cloud and would like to get access for your own research, you can find out more here.

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