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 & training.

Our funding is via the Australian Research Council (five grants to date), and a current Volkswagen Foundation (AI and Society of the Future Stream) grant led by Bielefeld University. VOSON tools have been publicly available since 2006. The current suite of VOSON R tools are available on CRAN and GitHub, with over 461K downloads to date, and are downloaded over 1K times per month.

Please contact Professor Robert Ackland if you have any queries about the VOSON Lab.

VOSON Lab Staff

Students associated with the VOSON Lab

PhD students

  • Sidiq Madya (PhD candidate, School of Sociology, ANU) - Sidiq's thesis topic is "Data Sovereignty: The Web of Narratives from Non-State Actors" Panel Chair/Supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Nicholas Corbett (PhD candidate, School of Sociology, ANU) - Nick's thesis topic is "Algorithmic platforms and the alt-right: considering a new understanding of online extremism." Panel Chair/Supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Bryan Gertzel (PhD candidate, School of Sociology, ANU) - Bryan's thesis topic is "The Role and Impact of Social Bots: A Computational Social Science and Software Design Perspective." Panel Chair/Supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Mikayla Novak (PhD candidate, School of Sociology, ANU) - Mikayla's thesis topic is "Tweeting hydrogen: An Exploratory Study of Australian Twitter Communications about Hydrogen Decarbonisation". Panel Chair/Supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Simon Copland (PhD candidate, School of Sociology, ANU) - Simon's thesis topic is "Reddit, The Manosphere and The Male Complaint". Associate Supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Yuanyuan Shang (PhD candidate, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU) - Yuanyuan's thesis topic is "Social media and online public deliberation: A case study of climate change communication on Twitter". Associate Supervisor - R. Ackland

People previously associated with the VOSON Lab


  • Dr Haris Memic (Research Fellow in School of Sociology, ANU, 2015-17) - his research was focused on statistical social network analysis of online networks, with particular focus on Twitter.
  • Dr Yenn Lee (SOAS, University of London) researches in the field of digital culture and politics (with focus on the Asia-Pacific region) and taught and co-taught in the Online Research Methods masters course at ANU 2012-2013 (focusing on online qualitative methods).

PhD students

  • Mahin Raissi (PhD, Australian Demographic & Social Research Institute [now School of Demography], ANU, graduated 2016). Thesis title: "Online social networks and subjective well-being of older Australians". Panel chair/supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Ian Wood (PhD, Research School of Computer Science, ANU, graduated 2016). Thesis title: "Watching the unobservable - On measuring social dynamics of online social media". Panel chair/supervisor - H. Gardner, Supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Minkyoung Kim (PhD, Research School of Computer Science, ANU, graduated 2014). Thesis title: "Dynamics of information diffusion". Associate Supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Harsh Taneja (PhD; Media, Technology and Society; Northwestern University; graduated 2014). Thesis title: "Media Consumption on the World Wide Web: Integrating Theories of Global Media Flows and Media Choice to Global Cultural Consumption". Advisor - R. Ackland

Master of Social Research (Advanced) students

  • Rizwan Saeed (Master of Social Research (Advanced), ANU, graduated 2019). Thesis title: "Twitter and development of social capital (in Pakistan): A gender perspective." Thesis supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Sneha Vaidya (Master of Social Research (Advanced), ANU, graduated 2019). Thesis title: "Social and political engagement on Twitter in India." Thesis supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Kyosuke Tanaka (Master of Social Research (Advanced), ANU, graduated 2015). Thesis title: "Self-disclosure and homophily in online social networks." Thesis supervisor - R. Ackland
  • Cecilie Einarson Perez (Master of Social Research Advanced, ANU, graduated 2013). Thesis title: "Tweeting the frame: Fields and frames in the age of the networked individual." Thesis supervisor - R. Ackland

Honours students

  • Finn Hick Bullock (Honours in Sociology, ANU, 2022). Thesis title: "There's no r/place like home: Creation and destruction as reflections of nationalism and collective action in Reddit's r/Place" Thesis supervisor: R. Ackland
  • Lauren Northcote (Honours in Sociology, ANU, 2021). Thesis title: "The Memes that Moved the Market: Understanding meme propagation in the GameStop short squeeze through the revival of Gabriel Tarde’s hundred-year-old theories." Thesis supervisor: R. Ackland
  • Karl Gwynn (Honours in Sociology, ANU, 2019). Thesis title: "Incivility in the Australian Political Twittersphere." Thesis supervisor: R. Ackland

Undergraduate students

  • Karl Gwynn (BA Sociology, ANU). SOCY3001 Research Internship project (Semester 2 2018) on "Fact Checking Methodologies within Social Media Data Analysis". Advisor - R. Ackland
  • Lawrence Rogers (BA Applied Statistics and International Relations, ANU). ARTS2101 Advanced Studies 4 project (Semester 1 2018) on "Analysing differences in behaviour between human and socialbot Twitter users: Smoke screening and misdirection during #debatenight in the 2016 US presidential election". Advisor - R. Ackland

Research Assistants

  • Xiaolan Cai (graduated from ANU Master of Social Research in 2018). She worked as a part-time research assistant for the VOSON Lab.
  • Xujing Bai (graduated from ANU Master of Social Research in 2015) worked as a part-time research assistant on a project investigating the institutional structure of the public health sectors in Australia and China using hyperlink network analysis.
  • Kyosuke Tanaka (graduated from ANU Master of Social Research Advanced in 2015) worked as a part-time research assistant, co-authoring the report "Development Impact of Social Media" (background report for World Bank World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends) and contributing to research relating to adaptive sampling of large-scale networks.
  • Heather Crawford (graduated from ANU Master of Social Research in 2010) worked as a part-time research assistant and also edited the VOSON website.
  • Susannah Sabine (graduated from ANU Master of Social Research, Social Science of the Internet stream in 2010) worked as a research assistant to Robert Ackland, assisting with the chapter on WWW hyperlink networks in the NodeXL book.
  • Natalie Cooper (ANU employee, 2004-2005) worked as a research assistant to Rachel Gibson and Robert Ackland.

Software developers and testers

  • Lin Chen (ANU compsci masters student 2009, ANU employee 2010-2013) worked as a software developer and research assistant.  His computer science masters research project was on VOSON-sns.
  • Xiantong Chen (ANU compsci masters student 2009) worked on optimising the VOSON C++ code using concurrent programming techniques as the topic of his masters project.
  • Stephen Gray (ANU employee, 2003-2007) contributed to code relating to the interaction between PHP and perl (in particular, use of XML to pass results from perl analysis code to PHP user interface code) and implemented a new menuing system using Yahoo UI library.
  • Russell Standish (consultant, 2005) worked on incorporating web services into VOSON, including a prototype web service using gSoap, and provided general programming advice.
  • Joel McDonald (ANU employee and student, 2001-2004) contributed to code for an earlier Qt-based version of the software, and wrote the first version of the perl-based webcrawler (JSpyda).
  • Jenny Ackland has provided research assistance and assistance with documenting and bug testing the VOSON System.