Mining Back: Re-curating Social Media Content for Social Good 

Poster for the Civic Participation in the Datafied Society conference taken from the conference website.
Poster for the Civic Participation in the Datafied Society taken from the Data Justice conference website.

Ozlem Demirkol Tonnesen,  Anna Feigenbaum,  José Blázquez presented on our AHRC project methodology at the Data Justice Conference. Contributing to the conference theme Civic Participation in the Datafied Society we explore how social media content can be re-curated for social good. 

Slide about the three pillars of the Mining back methodological framework, also explained in the text
Slide from the conference presentation outlining our methodological framework

Read our abstract here: 

Social media platforms archive much of the contemporary cultural, social and political artefacts that are created by the public in response to all the mundane and unique aspects of life. Instagram, for instance, is one of world’s largest visual archives, yet our ability to engage with it to learn about ourselves and our world remains tightly controlled and largely directed by the for-profit interests of the few. Set by corporate agendas, these platforms’ policies govern the terms of access to collect data while the platform’s algorithms curate the way in which content is seen or experienced by the users to keep them on the platform.  

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, under the name of increased security, platforms like Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram further privatised and commercialised access to their data, establishing elite networks and services for research collaboration, such as Facebook’s Social Science Onewith its central hub at Harvard University that exists to “unlock commercial information for public good in privacy protective ways” (  

While these collaborations mobilise the phrase ‘social good,’ the solutions of interest are commercially driven and directed around business priorities. Moreover, their mechanisms for collaboration reproduce data divides that concentrate power “amongst corporate firms, dominant in the West, and unequally distributed along racial and gender lines” (Feigenbaum and Alamalhodaei 2020, p.68). This elites-focused access likewise furthers what Andrejevic (2014) refers to as the “asymmetric relationship between those who collect, store and mine large quantities of data and those whom data collection targets (p. 1673).”  

In a difficult context in which privacy, ownership and data justice collide with economic interests and business opportunities, we stress the moral responsibility that social media platforms have towards the preservation and wide accessibility of productive cultural and social representations of digital citizenship, and the appropriate actions that organisations and researchers can take to fill that gap.  

On this basis, what methods are left to ‘mine back’ data for social value? How public archives can be built and re-claimed? In this paper, we reflected on some of the innovative, ethically driven solutions for working with social media data offered by other researchers and organisations before introducing our own project methodology for ‘mining back’ to archive and ‘re-curate social media content for social good.’ Designed as a response to asymmetrical relations of power in data-driven research, our approach provides a framework for re-curating publicly shared content from social media via collaborations with public stakeholders and content creators. 

This methodology highlights the importance of defining new social relationships for content beyond the confines of platform algorithms to further facilitate the study, preservation, and understanding of these sociocultural representations. We argue that collaborative re-curation of content can create new, participatory, and socially engaging infrastructures for data exploration and knowledge exchange. 


Andrejevic, M 2014, ‘Big Data, Big Questions| The Big Data Divide’, International Journal of Communication, vol. 8, pp. 1673-1689. 

Feigenbaum, A & Alamalhodaei, A 2020, The Data Storytelling Workbook. Routledge, London. 

Research Assistant

I am a PhD candidate researching the ways digital cultures inform the expressive styles of political talk. I love exploring how reality is narrated online and I am moonlighting as a research assistant in two projects on social media and public health.

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Dr. Anna Feigenbaum delivers keynotes on Data Storytelling and COVID-19

Sketchnote illustration of Dr. Feigenbaum’s keynote address.

On The 27th of November 2020, Dr. Anna Feigenbaum presented a keynote presentation at the Data Storytelling Symposium hosted by the Data Stories project at Kings College London. She delivered her keynote address on Humanising Data Stories to a webinar audience of over 400 registered participants. Arising from work co-created with colleagues and PhD candidate Alexandra Alberda, the presentation explored techniques for telling more empathetic and effective stories both with and about data. Highlighting the ‘statistical chaos’ of COVID-19, Dr. Feigenbaum’s presentation showcased both her own comics collaborations with research illustrator Alexandra Alberda, as well as work of other comics artists and illustrators, both amateur and professional.  This keynote was part of a series of talks and workshop Dr. Feigenbaum and Alberda have given over the past few months, including participation in the ESRC Festival of Social Science and a keynote at BU’s EdD conference, as well as international conferences IGNCC and ISPIM and most recently the Coronavirus, statistical chaos and the news event co-hosted by Bournemouth University, the Royal Statistical Society and the Association of British Science Writers on December 4, 2020.

Illustration by Alexandra Alberda (comic script by Anna Feigenbaum, Alexandra Alberda and Yazan Abbas)

Dr. Feigenbaum joined a prestigious line-up of science journalists and academic experts, sharing pilot research that forms part of her upcoming UKRI/AHRC COVID-19 Rapid Response grant project on ‘COVID-19 Comics’. This project aims to enhance the role that comics can play in public health messaging through an analysis of the content, circulation patterns and social media engagement of webcomics about COVID-19. Dr. Feigenbaum leads a team of BU colleagues and partners as PI, alongside Alexandra Alberda, Professor Julian McDougall, Dr. William Proctor and Dr. Sam Goodman. Project partners are Public Health Dorset, the Information Literacy Network and the Graphic Medicine Collective. To find out more about this work or about hosting a data storytelling workshop for your project team, contact

Originally published at: BU Research Blog

Anna Feigenbaum Administrator
Professor in Digital Storytelling

I am a writer, researcher, teacher and workshop leader specialising in data storytelling for civic good. From digging into dusty archives to data visualising absent deaths, I am drawn to the difficult, the messy, the ethically challenging questions that exist around the edges of debates over how we tell stories with science and data. As a consultant and trainer, I collaborate with charities, NGOs, Public Health organisations, investigative journalists and other researchers to explore empathetic and effective ways to tell data stories. I believe that it is often those without access to big budgets and fancy tools that hold the data stories we most need to change the world.

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