Mobilizing Social Media Data: Reflections of a Researcher Mediating between Data and Organization
This paper examines the practices involved in mobilizing social media data from their site of production to the institutional context of non-profit organizations. We report on nine months of fieldwork with a transnational and intergovernmental organization using social media data to understand the role of grassroots initiatives in Mexico, in the unique context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We show how different stakeholders negotiate the definition of problems to be addressed with social media data, the collective creation of ground-truth, and the limitations involved in the process of extracting value from data. The meanings of social media data are not defined in advance; instead, they are contingent on the practices and needs of the organization that seeks to extract insights from the analysis. We conclude with a list of reflections and questions for researchers who mediate in the mobilization of social media data into non-profit organizations to inform humanitarian action.