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Margaret Thatcher attending the funeral of Ronald Reagan

Researchers to investigate Thatcher death tweets

8 July 2014

Team will be looking at how images used on social media

RESEARCHERS from the Manchester School of Art will be looking at pictures posted following the death of Margaret Thatcher as part of the world’s first study into how images are shared on Twitter.

Professor Jim Aulich and Dr Simon Faulkner are part of a research project that will investigate which pictures become popular, who shares them and how quickly they spread.

The research team have already collected nearly 150,000 tweets and downloaded almost 17,000 individual images.

Dr Faulkner, Senior Lecturer in Art History, said: "This experience will be invaluable to a team of researchers concerned with the in-depth analysis of social media images and also with how the research might be creatively presented."

Research tool

The pair are working with colleagues from a number of other organisations, including the University of Sheffield, who are leading the project, plus Warwick University, Pulsar and the University of Wolverhampton.

The aim is to build a free research tool for the academic community to allow researchers to capture visual data in order to highlight and study different aspects.

This will include the popularity of different kinds of images, who shares these, how quickly they spread, how they’re tagged, may include location data as well as look more closely at how images are discussed and appropriated.

The research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Role of Big Data

Samantha McGregor, Senior Policy Manager, of ESRC said: “We are committed to fostering and promoting greater transformative innovation and risk in the research that we support.

“This award particularly highlights the importance of Big Data, and specifically social media data, in achieving transformative social science, as well as their relevance to our broader research portfolio.”