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Sentiment Analysis doesn’t get Steve Coogan, does it?

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5 October 2012

Sentiment Analysis is a tough one. On the one hand, it holds the key to automated deeper understanding of content, brand awareness, and a load of futuristic stuff. On the other, while some claim sentiment analysis accuracy as high as 80%, it’s easy to see why exact figures should never be trusted when talking about sentiment.

If treated with caution, however, Sentiment Analysis can be applied in very interesting ways.

Sentiment Analysis will never get Steve Coogan

This week Fresh Networks published a fascinating Twitter based Sentiment Analysis experiment they conducted during an episode of BCC Question Time. They recorded all the tweets containing the programs hashtag (#BBCQT) using Datasift, and then analysed the average sentiment connected to each of the five panellists. Only one of the five panellists had a positive sentiment connected to them, indicating a possible left-wing bias amongst viewers who tweet.

And … nobody likes Steve Coogan.

This is the dark side of sentiment. Does nobody really like Steve Coogan, or is this where social analysis just completely fails to take the intricacies of human nature into account? Steve Coogan’s comedy is a very specific style of comedy. It amuses by bordering on the verge of irritation, and sometimes by crossing the line altogether. His evergreen character, Alan Partridge, plays the role of the pompous fool, completely unaware of how he portrays himself, and how the people around him perceive him. It gives people something to dislike, so they can laugh at it without empathy.

Then, in his own and Rob Brydon’s series, The Trip, they use the same technique to cultivate viewer empathy by exposing their own worst flaws in a series of intimate restaurant meals.

Negative social sentiment, in Steve Coogan’s case, is his tool. That’s what he cultivates and sculpts, into comedy.

And this fine distinction, sentiment analysis fails to detect.

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