Facebook History Collector: A New Method for Directly Collecting Data from Facebook

Facebook History Collector: A New Method for Directly Collecting Data from Facebook

Rosanna E. Guadagno (National Science Foundation, Arlington VA, USA), Tonio A. Loewald (Loewald New Media, Arlington VA, USA), Nicole L. Muscanell (The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA), Joan M. Barth (The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA), Melissa K. Goodwin (The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA) and Yang Yang (The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijicst.2013010105
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Abstract

Social networking sites are a rich source of untapped data. While much research has focused on Facebook and other social networks, less has done so by collecting information straight from the source. The purpose of this paper is to present a new and innovative means of gathering raw data from Facebook via a software program the authors call the Facebook History Collector. Initially developed to study Facebook activity in the wake of a destructive tornado that occurred in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on April 27, 2011, this tool allows for retrieving massive amounts of text, photographs, and videos directly from Facebook during a period of time set by the researcher. In this article, the authors argue that the new method has broad implications for use within the research community as it allows capturing real-time social media interactions. The process of software development, data collection, technical details, and ethical considerations are discussed.
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Current Research Methods Used To Collect Data From Sns

A comprehensive review by Wilson, Gosling, and Graham (2012) examined the social science literature on Facebook and other online social networks. Overall, the authors concluded that researchers have studied Facebook from several key perspectives: descriptive analyses of Facebook users, motivations for Facebook use, identity presentation, social interaction on Facebook, and privacy-information disclosure. Existing research has utilized different ways to explore research questions relevant to people’s use of Facebook. These include (a) surveys and self-reports, (b) user ratings of mock-up or existing Facebook profiles, and (c) analyses of content retrieved directly from social media platforms. All of these approaches have provided useful data collection techniques. For example, by applying the self-report method, researchers have contributed to a burgeoning body of literature that facilitates our understanding of how and why people use social networking. Successfully employed in experimental studies, the mock-up profile is another viable alternative. Yet, the ability of these methods to capture real-time social media interactions is limited.

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