Virtual Observatory for the Study of Online Networks (VOSON)

The Virtual Observatory for the Study of Online Networks (VOSON) Lab is located in the Research School of Social Sciences at The Australian National University. We are advancing the Social Science of the Internet through an innovative program of researchresearch tool developmentteaching & research training.  We use various terms to describe what we do: web sciencenetwork sciencecomputational social sciencebig data analyticse-research.

The VOSON Lab was formally established in 2005 with an Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative grant! We have been researching online networks since before the era of Facebook and Twitter, and our research has been funded by several ARC grants.

The VOSON software is a web application for the construction and analysis of hyperlink networks.  It has been publicly available since 2006 and has been used by over 2500 researchers worldwide.  Please visit Uberlink if you would like to apply for a VOSON user account or to get further information about how to access the VOSON software.

Chapter in Socialbots book

Tim Graham and Rob Ackland have contributed a chapter "Do Socialbots Dream of Popping the Filter Bubble? The Role of Socialbots in Promoting Deliberative Democracy in Social Media" in M. Bakardjieva and R. W. Gehl (eds) Socialbots and Their Friends: Digital Media and the Automation of Sociality (London: Routledge), which was published in December 2016.

Chapter in Web As History book

Ann Evans and Rob Ackland have contributed a chapter "Using the Web to Examine the Evolution of the Abortion Debate in Australia 2005-2015" in N. Brügger and R. Schroeder (eds), Web as History (London: UCL Press), published March 2017.


SocialMediaLab is an R package that provides a suite of tools for collecting and constructing networks from social media data. Tim Graham is the lead developer. SocialMediaLab provides easy-to-use functions for collecting data across popular platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) and generating different types of networks for analysis. See here for more on SocialMediaLab, including training.

Collaboration with artist Jen Fullerton - abusive language directed towards politicians on Twitter

Artist Jen Fullerton collaborated with Rob Ackland to create a unique series of paper sculptures depicting abusive language directed towards Australian politicians on Twitter. Rob provided analytics using data collected in a project where the Twitter activity of Australian politicians (and those engaging with politicians via tweets, retweets and metnions) was tracked for a year. Jen created the works as an ANU Vice-Chancellor’s College Artist Fellow, and she commented: "Access to this data has given me the opportunity to discuss the use of abusive language on social media as a new and accepted form of public discourse...Working with Dr Ackland has allowed me to further explore my interest in using sculpture to discuss the ways in which increasing levels of online interaction are changing our behaviour."