The Global Demographics of Twitter

This final morning at AoIR 2015 opens with my paper with Darryl Woodford and Troy Sadkowsky which explores the global Twitter userbase. Our slides are below:

The Problems with Unmasking Online Trolls

The final AoIR 2015 speaker for today is Emily van der Nagel, whose interest is in the unmasking of prominent Reddit troll Violentacrez. There are thousands of Reddit sections that provide a space for the formation of various communities, some of which are highly confrontational and offensive.

The moderator of one of these spaces, Violentacrez, was recently unmasked by an investigative blogger – a process known as doxing –, and this is seen as destructive and a form of violence by Reddit users themselves. The unmasking practice is similar to the Chinese "human flesh search engine", a form of public shaming through online media.

Mechanisms for Self-Disclosure on Facebook

The next speaker at AoIR 2015 is Brady Robards, whose interest is in mapping changes in disclosure practices through sustained Facebook use. User presence on Facebook is constituted by both synchronous and asynchronous disclosure, through various communication mechanisms and governing algorithms. Disclosure practices have changed over time as Facebook itself has also changed.

Brady's project builds on a series of interviews with 20-something-year-old users (i.e. users at a critical age in identity formation). Information on their identity disclosure practices is informative of larger patterns.

In general, in the idealised self-presentation, the positive is always recorded over the negative, emphasising moments of celebration – but this is complicated by more 'authentic' presentations of the self in the moment, by users as well as their friends: the self is thus also co-constructed.

The Challenges of Expressing Online Identity

Next up at AoIR 2015 is Sonia Vivienne, whose focus is on self-exposure and social surveillance. She suggests that in using social media we are creating an exhibition of the self: the story of social presence builds on the perpetual connectedness of contemporary life, the intimate publics which emerge through this, and the networked private spheres that arise from it.

Intimate citizenship involves asserting the right to chose what we do with our bodies and identities; networked identity and privacy is negotiated and mediated, whether we are pseudonymous or not. There are both risks and rewards in establishing and expressing an online identity.

The Intimate Surveillance of Young Children

The final AoIR 2015 session for today starts with Tama Leaver, whose focus is on the sharing of very early childhood images as a form of co-created online identity. There are a number of approaches to understanding online identity: the networked self is persistent, replicable, scalable, and owned; identity is always under construction, and never complete, and it is also generated by users other than ourselves – identity is co-created.

Users have internet footprints (their purposeful presence) as well as digital shadows, created by others, and these turn into social media rivers that we as users try to curate. This leads to the content-generated user. Individual agency is central in all this: the presumption is that identity should be able to be controlled and curated by the user. There is also a shift towards 'real name' policies in major social media platforms, which have a range of intended and unintended consequences.

From Worker-Generated Content in China to Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

The AoIR 2015 keynote today is by Jack Linchuan Qiu, whose begins by highlighting the contributions Asian communication and Internet researchers and practitioners have made to their fields, from very early research publications to Korea. citizen journalism site OhmyNews, Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, and most recently the incomplete "umbrella revolution" in Hong Kong.

But Asia is also the industrial base of the global digital revolution, and in this it remains part of the global south. Here, classic 19th century-style industrial struggles take place using 21st-century communication technologies. The problems around Apple iPhone manufacturer Foxconn represent just the tip of the iceberg for these kinds of struggles.

To illustrate this, Jack discusses the picture of a handwritten protest poem which was posted to a tree in the manufacturing town Dongguan, and was shared virally using social media. Transmitted through social media, this is an expression of digital activism, similar to so many other campaigns around the world. But in Asia it also has a special meaning, as it represents workers armed with smart phones challenging the Chinese social and industrial model. The recent tidal wave of social media use amongst Chinese workers is just as important to study as the Arab Spring uprisings.

State Surveillance as Incodification

The next speakers at AoIR 2015 are Jessa Lingel and Aram Sinnreich, whose interest is in the resistance of incarcerated populations to surveillance processes. How does protest against surveillance work for prisoners?

Jessa begins by highlighting the Foucauldian idea of askesis: a deliberative exercise of the self which also helps shape the norms of community around the practitioner. The way one person does things can thus shape the practices of those around them, and this applies to prison populations as well – hunger strikes are an obvious example of this, and they are especially effective here as state authorities are in charge of providing food.

Using Social Network Analysis to Explore the Dynamics of Online Publics

The next speaker at AoIR 2015 is Mathieu O'Neil, whose focus is on the use of social network analysis in exploring online publics. Social network analysis treats the diffusion of information online as a form of contagion. It draws distinctions between leaders and followers in the social network, and the network properties of these accounts affect how information is disseminated across the network; there are certain threshold levels for information diffusion and the emergence of information cascades.

What different categories of actors exist in social networks, then? What is the impact of social status or structural positions, and what cultural dynamics may apply? One way to approach such questions is through the concept of fields, which have their own structural features and dynamics; indeed, the recent concept of the strategic action field suggests that collective actors are attuned to and interact with each other based on their shared understandings of the field itself.

The Changing Rules for Political Campaigning in Japan

The next session at AoIR 2015 starts with Leslie Tkach-Kawasaki, whose focus is on the use of social media in the 2013 upper house election in Japan. Online campaigning has been studied for some time already, with considerable focus on the impact of technological innovation; such research has found that online practices often mirrored offline practices. Online political marketing in particular has been an extension of traditional offline marketing techniques, and the use of social media for campaign involvement has also been explored recently.

Post-war electoral reforms in Japan set up multimember electoral districts where members of the same party would vie for the same seats. The law also distinguishes between political and campaign activities, and governs the distribution of campaign materials (including geographical distribution, the means and content of messages, and the distribution channels).

News Sharing Speeds across Facebook and Twitter

The final speaker in this AoIR 2015 session is Veronika Karnowski, whose focus is on news diffusion across social media platforms. The Internet has become a main source of news, of course, and social media platforms play an increasingly important role in this. Social media are now not just a source of news content, but also act as a multiplier promoting the sharing of news; and of course they also enable follow-up communication about the news.

The various social media platforms available also enable a kind of cross-pollination between different platforms, and this needs to be researched in greater detail. How do sharing patterns on Facebook and Twitter interact with one another, for example?


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