Today, some of the more popular of the obscure corners of the internet announced that they’ve banded together to reveal a new research partnership, aptly named DERP, Digital Ecologies Research Partnership. The partnership includes Imgur, Reddit, Fark, Twitch, and the Stack Exchange.
The idea came about when Imgur began receiving requests from academics who wanted to start studying what happens on each social media platform. Tim Hwang, head of special initiatives at the company, says that Derp was born because they were all interested in finding out what was happening on each specific platform.
Because of this newly created partnership, researchers will have access they’ve never had before. The data will be available to Harvard, MIT and McGill. Most of this information would already be available through public APIs; however, Hwang says, “Our belief is that there are ways of doing research better and in a way that strongly respects user privacy and responsible use of data.”
So what kind of research could be all that helpful? According to the Guardians, a Stanford paper is analyzing the reddit sub forum, Random Acts of Pizza. They’re researching what it takes for someone to receive a pizza when they request it, how many friends they have online and how much the poster has used Reddit. By the end, the group could predict with 67 percent accuracy whether someone would receive the pizza requested or not.
Now, that’s not exactly rocket science, but these kinds of studies could be important from an anthropological standpoint when assessing how humans in our time communicate and relate online. Other studies can look deeper into how politics and civic process will play out online as well as how different online relationships are formed and maintained on sites that don’t require a real ID.
The project wants to give researchers the tools they’ve lacked when attempting to study social media data. Derp will put the researchers directly in contact with a person who can help them, rather than leave researchers foundering to find a contact they need. Since the partnership brings together multiple sites, data comparisons between platforms becomes easier and reduces the friction that happens when attempting to access information about different platforms.
So what would you like to study about Reddit or Imgur?