by Slavica Zivanovic
There is an ongoing discussion about the applicability of social media data in scientific research. Moreover, little is known about the feasibility to use these data to capture the Quality of Life (QoL). This study explores the use of social media in QoL research by capturing and analysing people’s perceptions about their QoL using Twitter messages. The methodology is based on a mixed method approach, combining manual coding of the messages, automated classification, and spatial analysis. The city of Bristol is used as a case study, with a dataset containing 1,374,706 geotagged Tweets sent within the city boundaries in 2013. Based on the manual coding results, health, transport, and environment domains were selected to be further analysed. Results show the difference between Bristol wards in number and type of QoL perceptions in every domain, spatial distribution of positive and negative perceptions, and differences between the domains. Furthermore, results from this study are compared to the official QoL survey results from Bristol, statistically and spatially. Overall, three main conclusions are underlined. First, Twitter data can be used to evaluate QoL. Second, based on people’s opinions, there is a difference in QoL between Bristol neighbourhoods. And, third, Twitter messages can be used to complement QoL surveys but not as a proxy. The main contribution of this study is in recognising the potential Twitter data have in QoL research. This potential lies in producing additional knowledge about QoL that can be placed in a planning context and effectively used to improve the decision-making process and enhance quality of life of residents.