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Thinking through the Parameters for Online Political Discourse

The final speaker in this morning panel at AoIR 2016 is Elliot Panek, who points out that social media are only one venue for political discourse, and that different platforms support different forms and qualities of discourse. Is it possible to develop robust, lasting frameworks for understanding such discourse that are not inherently tied to specific specific platforms, then?

Second-Screen Engagement with Chilean Political Talk Shows

The next speakers at AoIR 2016 are Daniela Ibarra Herrera and Johann W. Unger, whose focus is on second-screen engagement with Chilean political talk shows. These shows often show tweets on screen, and promote their own hashtags as a form of engagement. There are current constitutional problems in Chile, as a hangover from the Pinochet dictatorship, and there are also ongoing issues with political corruption; this means that there is considerable engagement with current political debates.

Uses of WhatsApp for Political Debate in Israel

The next AoIR 2016 speaker is Neta Kligler-Vilenchik, who shifts our focus to the use of WhatsApp groups for informal political talk, especially in an Israeli context. In Israel there is a comparatively more open environment for online political talk, but also a greater propensity to violent, inciting, or racist discussion, especially in the context of major political, military, and terrorist events.

Repercussions of Commenting on News Websites in Norway

The next speaker in this AoIR 2016 session is Anders Løvlie, whose interest is in the repercussions of commenting on online newspaper sites for the commenters themselves. This is in the context of the 2011 terror attacks in Norway, which were inspired in part by a number of right-wing extremist Websites. In the aftermath, online commenting on news sites became seen as a form of bigotry, and Norwegian news sites tightened their comment moderation approaches.

The Impact of Commenting Systems on Civility

After a swinging party last night, we are now starting the final day of AoIR 2016. This begins with a paper by Alfred Moore, Rolf Fredheim, and John Naughton, whose focus is on online commenting practices. More and more people are getting their news online, and especially through social media; this has been creating anxieties about how people are getting their information, but the dimension of online commenting has been less thematised in this context. The structure of commenting architectures has an important role to play here.

A Network Perspective on the Twitter Reaction to David Bowie's Death

The final presenters in this AoIR 2016 session are my colleagues Peta Mitchell and Felix Münch, who also focus on the Twitter reaction to David Bowie's death. Twitter as a platform can be useful for studying public responses to such events, but at the same time the focus on a hashtag only also limits the study to deliberately self-selecting tweets and users; a focus on 'Bowie' as a keyword provides a different perspective. This is also complicated by the one percent rate limit of the Twitter API, as 'Bowie' tweets spiked well above that limit.

Fan Reactions to David Bowie's Death on Twitter

The next paper in this AoIR 2016 session is by Hilde van den Bulck, which shifts our focus to the mourning of David Bowie after his death on 10 January 2016. Bowie had had a stellar and constantly shifting career, of course, but had also managed to keep his private life comparatively private, which is why his death came quite unexpectedly. Not least because of this there was a massive reaction to news of his death on Facebook and Twitter.

Post Mortem Digital Presences

I'm afraid I've missed most of today's AoIR 2016 conference because of meetings, but at least I've made it to the final session of the day, which starts with Paula Kiel. Her interest is in the emerging practices of the collective afterlife: Websites created for post mortem digital interaction. Such sites are usually created before death, and enable their users to actively configure how they want to be remembered online after they have died.

Who Does Rule the Internet, Then?

Tonight is the night of the AoIR 2016 public plenary, and while it's a panel discussion which I won't blog we are going to start with a few short statements from the panellists. We begin with Kate Crawford, who notes the contribution of so many AoIRists to our understanding of the Internet as more than a utopian cyberspace, and instead as a complex stack of network protocol, platform, infrastructural, connectivity, Internet of Things, and other Internet governance layers.

But we have a new problem: more and more artificial intelligence backend systems are being deployed now to ingest and process the data that we constantly generate. These are also moving beyond what we have traditionally called 'the Internet', operating in a wide range of institutions and influencing our perceptions of the world around us. The processes are not particularly intelligent, after all; the famous image of a naked girl fleeing napalm bombings in the Vietnam war was recently censored by Facebook, for instance, and while this image was reinstated this is only the tip of the iceberg of the many arbitrary and opaque decisions that are being made by such algorithms. But the decisions being made by humans are not necessarily all that better – there is overall an irrational confidence in the calculability of reality.

Better Approaches to Analysing Twitter Reply Chains

The final speaker in this session at AoIR 2016 is my DMRC colleague Brenda Moon. She points out that hashtag studies on Twitter are subject to significant limitations because they capture only those tweets that have been explicitly marked with those hashtags, but may not also examine the broader conversation that might unfold around those hashtagged tweets without being itself hashtagged. There is a need here to move beyond quantitative and computational analysis of these datasets as well – so the challenge here is to identify reply chains and to examine them more qualitatively.


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