Information scientists realized the potential of using publicly available Twitter data to shed light on social phenomena more than five years ago, and social scientists have now caught up: journals in media studies, political science, sociology and other disciplines are now publishing many articles using Twitter as a data source. Most of these articles analyze Tweets written in English and/or sent in North America and Western Europe; this neglects the enormous volumes of Twitter traffic in Asian countries such as Japan and Indonesia, and represents a great opportunity for researchers in Asian studies.
In this talk I briefly outline the potential and limitations of using Twitter as a data source, and note technical issues specific to researching East Asian Twitter traffic. I then introduce Japan-related Twitter research including that related to the 3.11 disasters. Finally I will describe some of my current Twitter-related research, in particular a joint project with Ken Nakanishi in which we divide Japan into regions based on mention connections derived from a dataset of more than 63 million geotagged Tweets.
Jonathan Lewis works at the Institute for the Study of Global Issues at Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo. For many years he did qualitative political economy research while writing computer programmes as a hobby, before the penny finally dropped and he started to use online data sources such as Wikipedia, Amazon and Twitter to investigate political, social and cultural topics. He has written about open source software communities, views of globalization around the world, and attitudes towards ASEAN in Japan and Indonesia. He teaches graduate and undergraduate students about Twitter research and collaborates with Masters and PhD students on research topics using online data.