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Tweeting at the Pope(s)

The post-lunch session at AoIR 2013 starts with a panel on celebrity crises, which has now become a QUT-only affair. We're starting with a paper by Theresa Sauter and me, on the Pope's @pontifex account. (Slides and audio are below.) Celebrity accounts in general are one of the big drivers of Twitter activity, as Twitter itself positions them. The @pontifex account was set up in December 2012 by Benedict XVI, with nine different language accounts set up, including one in Latin.

#Pontiff-Ex: The Twitter Community’s Reaction to the Papal Resignation from Axel Bruns

We tracked the English-language account, which had gathered 1.6 million followers by the time Benedict XVI resigned. He'd mainly posted brief prayer-style messages, coordinated across all languages, and the new pope Francis has done much the same since then. This is perhaps unsurprising given the status of the Pope.

Second-Screen Tweeting during Italian Political Talkshows

The final speaker in our AoIR 2013 panel is Fabio Giglietto, who presents a season-long study of Twitter use alongside 11 Italian TV talkshows. Twitter use alongside such shows can reveal the power struggles between political and media actors and everyday citizens.

Fabio's team bought Gnip data for the relevant hashtags related to these 11 talkshows, adding up to some 2.5 million shows. 76% of these were made while the shows were on air, with some 187,000 unique on-air contributors. The team also identified the key peaks in engagement, and associated them with specific time windows within the broadcasts; they then conducted a content analysis of the tweets posted and the content broadcast during these windows.

Second-Screen Tweeting on Belgian TV

The next presentation in this AoIR 2013 panel is by Pieter Verdegem and Evelin D'Heer, whose interest is in the role of Twitter in second-screen viewing. Twitter has been pushing this very strongly, but is social TV actually something new? We've seen attention to the social uses of television at least since the 1990s, through ethnographic research, but the use of social media has spread these practices further and connected users more widely.

Twitter can be a useful tool for measuring audience participation, but we also need to take into account the Twitter userbase in each country - in Belgium, some 20% of the population are said to be on Twitter, for example, but that group is neither demographically representative nor are they necessarily all active participants.

German Football on Twitter

This morning at AoIR 2013 starts for me with one of my own presentations - a paper on the use of Twitter by German football clubs that Katrin Weller and I have co-authored. I'll add in the slides and audio as soon as I can - consider this post a placeholder for later...

Social Media in the 2013 Norwegian Elections

The final paper in our panel at AoIR 2013 is by Anders Larsson and Bente Kalsnes, looking at the Norwegian election on 9 Sep. Their work examines the use of Twitter by citizens, politicians, and journalists. One starting point for this were the #valg2013 and #valg13 hashtags, to identify what users are being mentioned in these hashtags - which showed that then-PM Jens Stoltenberg was @mentioned frequently but did not often reply, while the Greens party both sent and received many hashtagged tweets. Amongst the retweeters, one-off messages which receive substantial retweets can become prominent, but more frequently retweeted users tend to be celebrities (comedians, journalists, etc.)

A second approach was to examine the Twitter uses by some of the key party leaders. As it turns out, during the month before the election there was a strong focus on @replying, especially from the leaders of the smaller parties. Their communication is mainly with their own supporters - there are very few users who received @replies from two or more leading politicians (and these are largely journalists and other media figures, not everyday citizens).

Social Media in the 2013 German Elections

The next paper in our AoIR 2013 panel is by Julia Neubarth and Christian Nuernbergk, covering the German federal election two days after the Australian one. The Net is playing an increasingly important role in political communication in Germany, but there is still very little active participation by citizens, and active participants are mainly male, younger, and left-wing. Politicians are getting more active - some 60% of federal parliamentarians are on Twitter, although Chancellor Merkel still isn't.

German politicians on Twitter will find a mixed audience - use in the country is growing, but still limited; however, active participants are especially interesting as they represent journalists and other media personnel as well as especially politically interested users.

Social Media in the 2013 Italian Elections

The next panel at AoIR 2013 is one which I'm presenting in as well - we've brought together a number of presentations on the use of Twitter in national elections. The first presenter is Luca Rossi, whose focus is on the 2013 Italian election. He and his colleagues have examined activity on Twitter and Facebook during the month before the February election, gathering some 2 million @mentions and finding Facebook content which its own metrics reported some 25 million users talking about.

Is such activity related to the eventual election results at all? Can it predict the election outcome, in fact? This would mean taking the role of opinion polls, which in this election also turned out to be incorrect, partly due to the shifts in the party systems resulting from the rise of the Cinque Stelle party.

Studying the Processes of Media Production

The final speaker in this AoIR 2013 plenary is Gina Neff, who notes that the study of online practices and texts can only provide a limited perspective on resistance to capitalism. The political and economic affordances of the Internet are less open to resisting capitalist models than we might have thought; it tends to subsume resistant practices into online capitalism in the end.

This leads Gina to suggest that the era of the amateur is over. Capitalist dynamics privilege the platform developers, policy makers, proprietors and others over users; the Net is tool for and symbol of the reproduction of this set of power relations. Through it, proto-, pseudo-, and not-quite-yet-professional media makers are subsumed into the system.

The Emergent Rules of Games Spectatorship

The next speaker at this AoIR 2013 panel is T.L. Taylor, focussing here on spectatorship in gaming. The mix of playing and watching has always been central to gaming as a social activity, but game studies has always privileged the hands on the controller; spectatorship has traditionally also relied on physical co-presence (e.g. at gaming championships).

But now there are sites like Twitch, which enable gamers to make their private play public as a livestream, and even to make money in doing so, as a spinoff from JustIn.tv. The site currently has some 600 unique broadcasters per month, with some 45 million viewers per month and around 1.5 hours of play watched per day (hope I have those stats right). On Twitch, viewers can choose by game title, player, or channel, and players can trigger occasional commercial breaks in order to generate revenue.

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