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Identifying MOOC Learners on Social Media Platforms

We start the first paper session at WebSci 2016 with a paper by Guanliang Chen that examines learner engagement with Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These generate a great deal of data about learner engagement during the MOOC itself, but there's very little information about learners before and after this experience. Can we use external social Web data to identify and profile these learners, in order to better customise the learning experience for them?

Web Science and Biases in Big Data

It's a cool morning in Germany, and I'm in Hannover for the opening of the 2016 Web Science conference, where later today my colleague Katrin Weller and I will present our paper calling for more efforts to preserve social media content as a first draft of the present. But we start with an opening keynote by Yahoo!'s Ricardo Baeza-Yates, on Data and Algorithmic Bias in the Web.

Ricardo begins by pointing out that all data have a built-in bias; additional bias is added in the data processing and interpretation. For instance, some researchers working with Twitter data then extrapolate across entire populations, although Twitter's demographics are not representative for the wider public. There are even biases in the process of measuring for bias.

New Publications, and Coming Attractions

I’m delighted to share a couple of new publications written with my esteemed colleagues in the QUT Digital Media Research Centre – and as if we weren’t working on enough research projects already, this year is about to get an awful lot busier soon, too. First, though, to the latest articles:

Axel Bruns, Brenda Moon, Avijit Paul, and Felix Münch. “Towards a Typology of Hashtag Publics: A Large-Scale Comparative Study of User Engagement across Trending Topics.Communication Research and Practice 2.1 (2016): 20-46.

This article, in a great special issue of Communication Research and Practice on digital media research methods that was edited by my former PhD student Jonathon Hutchinson, updates my previous work with Stefan Stieglitz that explored some key metrics for a broad range of hashtag datasets and identified some possible types of hashtags using those metrics. In this new work, we find that the patterns we documented then still hold today, and add some further pointers towards other types of hashtags. We’re particularly thankful to our colleagues Jan Schmidt, Fabio Giglietto, Steven McDermott, Till Keyling, Xi Cui, Steffen Lemke, Isabella Peters, Athanasios Mazarakis, Yu-Chung Cheng, and Pailin Chen, who contributed some of their own datasets to our analysis.

Folker Hanusch and Axel Bruns. “Journalistic Branding on Twitter: A Representative Study of Australian Journalists’ Profile Descriptions.Digital Journalism (2016).

Now Out: The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics

It looks like 2016 is destined to start with a bang rather than a whimper: I’m delighted to announce that a major collection I’ve edited with my colleagues Gunn Enli, Eli Skogerbø, Anders Olof Larsson, and Christian Christensen in Oslo and Stockholm has now been published. The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics is a 37-chapter, 560-page collection of current research on the uses of social media in political activism and electoral campaigning.

From Anonymous to the Scottish Independence Referendum, from oppositional politics in Azerbaijan to elections in Kenya, the Companion covers a broad range of social media uses and impacts. It combines this with a number of keystone chapters that review and update existing political communication theory for a social media context. My sincere thanks to our many contributors, my co-editors, and especially our hard-working editorial coordinator Nicki Hall for making this publication happen – hope you enjoy it!

Launch of Policy Report on Social Media and Emergency Management Organisations

Over the past three years, my colleagues and I at Queensland University of Technology have partnered with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) and the Eidos Institute to undertake an Australian Research Council Linkage project to analyse and evaluate how social media are used by emergency management authorities, media organisations and citizens during recent natural disasters events.

Report launchDuring this time we have worked closely with officers from several Australian emergency management organisations to better understand from their practical experience how social media are used in emergency communications, and to find out those areas that are working well as well as those where improvements can be made. As a result of our research and industry discussions, it became apparent that there is a need for a national policy framework that addresses the use of social media in crisis communication, particularly to support the development of effective social media communication strategies and the positioning, resourcing, and training of social media units and/or staff in emergency management agencies and local governments. The Social Media Policy Report Support Frameworks for the Use of Social Media by Emergency Management Organisations has been developed to address this need, and it was launched at Old Government House, Brisbane, by Teresa Gambaro MP on Friday 13 November 2015.

Four New Chapters on the Challenges of Doing Twitter Research

One more post before I head home from the AoIR 2015 conference in Phoenix: during the conference, I also received my author’s copy of Hashtag Publics, an excellent new collection edited by Nathan Rambukkana. In this collection, Jean Burgess and I published an updated version of our paper from the ECPR conference in Reykjavík, which conceptualises (some) hashtag communities as ad hoc publics – and Theresa Sauter and I also have a chapter in the book that explores the #auspol hashtag for Australian politics.

Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess. “Twitter Hashtags from Ad Hoc to Calculated Publics.” In Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks, ed. Nathan Rambukkana. New York: Peter Lang, 2015. 13-28.

Theresa Sauter and Axel Bruns. “#auspol: The Hashtag as Community, Event, and Material Object for Engaging with Australian Politics.” In Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks, ed. Nathan Rambukkana. New York: Peter Lang, 2015. 47-60.

Intersections between Mobility and Memory

The final speaker in this final AoIR 2015 session is Lee Humphreys. Her interest is in the intersections between mobility and memory, and this needs to be understood in terms of degrees of mobility; some devices are more mobile than others.

Exploring the Uses of Snapchat

We move on in this session at AoIR 2015 to Nicole Ellison, who highlights the different frames through which we might understand mobile uses; one is the affordances frame which might highlight the differences between content persistence and ephemerality, for instance. She points to Snapchat in this context, as a particularly interesting object of research.

Situational Contexts of Mobile Internet Use

The next speaker at AoIR 2015 is Veronika Karnowski, whose focus is on the ubiquitous nature of Internet access in contemporary society. Prior to this, households may have had different mediators as determined by the location of connection plugs; later, patchy wireless availability made Internet use nomadic as we moved between islands of connectivity. Today, use is truly ubiquitous.

Mobile Internet Use in Armenia

The final (!) session of AoIR 2015 is on the mobile Internet, and starts with Katy Pearce. Her interest is in the experiences of mobile-only Internet users: a phenomenon which is especially prevalent in developing countries. Here, resource constraints make it more likely that users will buy multi-purpose devices such as feature phones or smartphones with direct network access rather than desktop, laptop, or tablet devices that require a wifi connection.

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