Data Collection, Analysis, and Small-Data Visualization: A Qualitative Interpretation of Novel Fandom Behaviors on Social Media Platforms

Abstract

This case study focuses on the data visualization method in the context of online fandom activities and the digital platform economy. In media and communication studies, fandom and celebrity studies go hand in hand which not only powers up the economy via its entertainment and news industries but also keeps audiences informed, entertained, and, sometimes, educated. In order to better understand novel fandom activities afforded by new digital technologies, my role in this project was to use the data visualization method and conduct data collection of fan-created texts alongside the digital contents they consumed or the celebrities they followed. This case study discusses the process of data collection and visualization of a small body of fan-created media texts, the underlying design thinking, and the challenges I experienced regarding the amount of data, data cleaning of idiosyncratic and vernacular fandom expressions, as well as the new modality afforded by new digital technologies. This case study also critically reflects on how “small data” can be used creatively under the dominating “big data” discourse in academia and how data visualization can be used to inform and compensate qualitative interpretations and ethnographies, which are widely used in fandom and audience studies.

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