IPS Digital Frontiers Seminar on "Assessing the Rationality of Political Online Space: Man and Machine"


Many critics of blogs and other online content have dismissed cyberspace as a Wild Wild West that is partisan, irrational and vitriolic. In the first part of the seminar we present a research study that seeks to confirm the truth or otherwise of this view. In our study we identified nearly 200 blogs with posts on political and social issues during the period of June and July 2014, a period which saw controversies breaking out over Pink Dot, the CPF and the National Library Board’s proposed pulping of children’s books with homosexual content. We analysed the blog posts for three aspects of ‘rationality’: objectivity, emotionality and partisanship. We found interesting relationships between the type of blogs, the identity of bloggers and their ‘rationality’.

In the second part of the seminar we present a study on using computers to classify political content found in blogs. In this collaboration between the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and the Living Analytics Research Centre (LARC), Singapore Management University, we used the results obtained by human coders in the IPS study described above to try to train the computer to identify the topics of discussion in each blog post. We will discuss how we trained the computer on stance and issue classification and emotion recognition, and present initial results. LARC will also present Classy, a fully automated system that performs automated topic labelling. We will also discuss the possibilities and limitations of machine classification of online content in theory and its applications in the case where the size of the database is far too big for human coders to handle.

Please click here to view the programme

About the IPS Digital Frontiers Seminar:

This series of seminars is based on the idea that new technologies have reached a point that has suddenly opened the doors for novel ways of doing things, be it in the social, political, economic and even research arenas. The seminars in the series are:


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For enquiries, please contact Ms Ong Si Ling at tel: 6516-8384, or email:

Wednesday, 11 February 2015
3.00pm – 5.00pm (Registration begins at 2.30pm)

Conference Room, Level 1, Oei Tiong Ham Building, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy