When it comes to activism and community service, Wesleyan has always tried to stay ahead of the curve. But this can be difficult, as the concerns and trends of community engagement are constantly shifting. Often, new topics will seemingly erupt out of nowhere, and it will take a while for word to spread. There are so many existing concerns that it can be difficult for new voices to be heard and for old voices to catch on to the changes. It might seem as though the trends in community engagement are shifting constantly, without any pattern. But can technology detect one?
Wesleyan’s Text Mining class was assigned the task of investigating this dilemma. They were asked to analyze the relationship between approaches to community engagement in the past and what people desire from it in the future. For past data, they collected the text of old Argus articles tagged “community engagement.” These articles were meant to illuminate what kinds of activities were most popular. Present data was collected through focus groups that were asked about the current state of community engagement at Wesleyan and how it could be improved. From this data, class groups hoped to discover how much the current activities overlap with the desires of the focus groups, as well as identify which community engagement topics are popular and which ones are new.