MA dissertations

Alice Corona – Social meets civic. Civic social media and open government data: An inquiry on collaborative fact-checking for citizens’ empowerment  (2013) 
Download or view the thesis here.

While talks about an “open data revolution” raise expectations on the democratic outcomes of open data, the sole release of open government data is not enough to fulfill those aims of transparency, accountability and citizens’ empowerment that democracies seek to achieve. The thesis analyzes how social media can be used to widen the potential of open government data in order to favor the emergence of an active citizenship. This inquiry is carried out through the qualitative study of an exemplar case: a platform for crowd-sourced fact checking developed by the Italian Fondazione. The research is conducted through a triangulation of methods, specifically content analysis of a digital entity (the social media platform); semi-structured interviews with members of Fondazione and a survey of the users of the platform. The outcome is a broad overview on the concept of civic social media and on the characteristics of a social media that promotes civic engagement and citizens’ empowerment.


Adriana Homolová – Social Network Analysis as a method in the Data Journalistic toolkit (2014)
Download or view the thesis here.

Corruption in public spending poses a big problem in many countries. It results in ineffective spending of public resources and has a negative impact on mechanisms of the free market as well as on the country’s economy. One of possible signs of corruption in public spending is low competitiveness. An example can be found in the Slovak procurement market. The median of companies that participate on the competition for public contracts in Slovakia is not only far under the EU average, but also the lowest in comparison to other EU countries. However, corruption in public spending and procurement still remains difficult to expose. Tools that can help with uncovering corrupt practices in public procurement are therefore much needed for supervising institutions, such as news agencies. A possible improvement in the monitoring of public spending is the usage of social network analysis (SNA). SNA has been used in social sciences for decades. However, it is not often used in journalistic research. The aim of this research is therefore to explore to what extent can social network analysis be used to analyze public procurement networks in journalistic research. A case study on freely available Slovak public procurement data shows manifestations of the so-called “red flags of corruption” in the public procurement network. Companies that acquire above average amounts of contracts become apparent after visualization of contract flows between public procurement market participants. Furthermore, information flows established by shared high management between companies also become visible. Visualization of the professional network of individual directors discloses conflict of interest situations as well as locates the most important individuals for the communication within the network. These results suggest that SNA can serve as a useful tool in the monitoring of government spending and even uncover possible corruption patterns. Therefore, social network analysis can become a welcome addition to the data journalistic toolkit.

Marlies de Brouwer – The influence of the Gestalt principles similarity and proximity on the processing of  information in graphs:  An eye tracking study. (2014)
Download or view the thesis here

Recently, a new type of graph has emerged: the infographic. The infographic tells the whole story, instead of just supporting the text, like standard graphs do. The influence of the Gestalt principles similarity and proximity on the processing of information in graphs is studied in an eye tracking experiment. In addition, the entertainment and usability value of graph types is investigated.