Diving deep into the unscoped virtual territories of a nation’s collective consciousness may reveal something remarkable. The Finnish, hugely popular Suomi24 discussion forum has 1.9 million monthly visitors, who use the online town square to talk about anything and everything close to their hearts. If this data could be harnessed into research use, what amazing things could we learn about Finnish society? A team of media professionals at the forums owner company Aller and researchers at the National Consumer Research Center plan to make use of this immense database.
“In addition to analyzing the topics and themes of discussions, we might also recognize trends and shifts in attitudes in connection to societal phenomena. This could include recognizing rising political movements”, says Helsinki Challenge semifinalist team leader Krista Lagus.
Vast material for research
Social scientists, text analysts and computational linguists will get access to the data and develop methods, tools and research questions to extract valuable information. This is expected to lead to insights into the Finnish mentality and its variations over time and about the nature of interactions in a virtual space. Our knowledge on issues that might lead to social conflict could grow immensely.
The team aims to open and translate this qualitative data for various researchers, decision-makers and organizations to use. A political scientist might look for rising trends in voting behaviour, brain researchers could use the material as comparative linguistic models and technology developers could scope possible markets.
“Understanding the mindscape of our citizens gives all actors in society a better idea of what the people want, feel and need,” Lagus says.
TEAM: Team leader Krista Lagus (PhD, senior researcher, NCRC), Mika Pantzar (research professor, NCRC), Göte Nyman (Professor emeritus, NCRC), Jussi Pakkasvirta (professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, UH), Pauli Aalto-Setälä (CEO, Aller), Timo Honkela (professor, UH), Reijo Sund (docent, Faculty of Social Sciences, UH), Minna Ruckenstein (senior researcher, NCRC).