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Does Humour Belong in Politics (on Twitter)?

The next speakers at AoIR 2015 are Kristen Guth and Alex Leavitt, who begin by highlighting Twitter's 2015 attempts to reduce the plagiarism of jokes by retweeting. Their real focus is on humour during the 2012 presidential debates in the US, though, and they focus on the three presidential debates during the campaign.

Addressing Information Overload in Art

The next AoIR 2015 speaker is Stacey May Koosel, whose interest is in the temporalities of digital culture. She worked with articles to explore the concept of tl;dr (too long; didn't read) – in relation to our consciousness of time. Tl;dr is related to information overload, and emerged in 2003; it may point to decreasing attention spans, and show how we are overwhelmed by the information deluge we are now faced with. We negotiate it by employing pattern recognition.

Do Smartphones Result in iTime?

The next speaker in this AoIR 2015 session is Veronika Kalmus, whose interest is in the idea of iTime, or the impact of smartphones on our perceptions of social time (and space). There is a sense of the acceleration of social time and social life, partly due to the impact of digital technologies. What are the social, political, and psychological implications of such a speeding-up?

Do Google Search Recommendations Influence the Public Debate?

The next session at AoIR 2015 is exploring timing issues, and the first paper by Sarah Muñoz-Bates is about the effects of Google on how people perceive topics. For example, what is the effect of seeing the term 'illegal' rather than 'undocumented' in relation to migrants? Does it cross the line and criminalise the person; is it racialised in a way that other terms are not?

Speculative Design for Marginalised Communities

And we're off! AoIR 2015 proper starts with a keynote by Micha Cárdenas, who begins with a choice: as the planet is dying, do we want to stay in hell or move to an ice planet? By popular vote, hell it is.

But hell is, well, hellish, and unbearable, and now we're offered a chance of the ocean moon or the ice planet – this time, we're choosing the ocean moon (and this is all highly interactive, with audience members literally racing up to the podium to choose our adventure).

AoIR 2015: Some Notes ahead of the Digital Methods Pre-Conference Session

It's that time of the year when everything else stops and the international community of Internet researchers assembles for the annual AoIR conference. This time we're in Phoenix – arguably the warmest location AoIR has held its conference to date, and a trend very much worth continuing. I have a particularly good reason for coming to the conference this year – in addition to the usual programme of keynotes and presentations, my colleagues have seen fit to elect me as Vice-President of the Association of Internet Researchers, and I'm humbled by the honour of being able to help AoIR continue to flourish.

We start this year's conference with the pre-conference events, and here the QUT Digital Media Research Centre has put together a one-day research methods workshop which has turned out to be popular beyond expectations – with around 100 attendees for this workshop alone, we've had to make some last-minute adjustments to the format and programme of the event. Some of what could have worked as hands-on elements will now need to turn into methods demos, and this goes especially for my workshop on analysing Twitter data, gathered with TCAT, by using Tableau and Gephi.

Call for Applications: CCI Digital Methods Summer School, 15-19 Feb. 2016 (#cciss16)

We are now inviting applications for the 2016 CCI Digital Methods Summer School. The deadline for application is Monday 21 Sep. 2016.

Hosted by the QUT Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC), the 2016 event will focus on digital methods for sociocultural research. It is designed for university researchers at all stages of their careers, from doctoral students, postdoctoral and mid-career academics to established scholars.

The week-long intensive program will focus on new quantitative, qualitative and data-driven digital methods and their research applications in the humanities and social sciences, with a particular focus on media, communication and cultural studies and their applications in the creative industries.

Participants will work with leading researchers, engage in hands-on workshop activities and will have the opportunity to present and get feedback on their own work.

The Summer School will offer a range of introductory hands-on workshops in topics such as:

  • Digital ethnography
  • Issue mapping
  • Social media data analytics
  • Software and mobile app studies
  • Analysing visual social media
  • Geo-spatial mapping
  • Data visualisation
  • Agent-based modelling
  • Web scraping

The program will be conceptually grounded in the problems of public communication and privacy, digital media production and consumption, and the ethical issues associated with big data and digital methods in the context of digital media environments. There will be talks on these topics in addition to the workshops.

QUT Digital Media Research Centre PhD Scholarships for 2016 Entry

The Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), where I am based, is now calling for expressions of interest from prospective postgraduate research students as part of the University’s annual Scholarship Round.

The DMRC conducts world-leading research that helps society understand and adapt to the changing digital media environment. It is the leading Australian centre for the fields of media and communication – areas in which QUT has achieved the highest possible rankings in ERA, the national research quality assessment exercise. We are actively engaged with the Asian region across all our research programs; and we have a strong commitment to research training for academic and industry researchers alike. 

Applicants with excellent academic track records (equal to an Australian Bachelor Degree with First Class Honours) or equivalent research experience may be eligible for competitive PhD scholarships to undertake study with us. Successful applicants will work on topics that align closely with one or more of our four research programs. The DMRC is also offering a number of additional top-ups to these scholarships for highly ranked students.

Closing date: 30th September 2015 (earlier enquiries essential)

Further information on our research programs, PhD topics for 2016, and how to apply is here:  http://tinyurl.com/dmrcphd

Some New Publications

It’s been some time since I last posted an update on my latest publications – though you may have seen that on the front page of this site, I’ve updated the banner of the most recent books I’ve been featured in, at last. There is quite a lot more work in the pipeline for the immediate future, including a major new collection which I’ve edited with colleagues in Norway and Sweden – more on that soon.

For now, though, you wouldn’t go wrong if you started by checking out the new journal Social Media + Society, which I’m delighted to be involved in as a member of the Editorial Board. We launched issue 1.1 with a collection of brief manifesto pieces that outline why the study of social media and their impacts on society is so important, featuring many leading researchers in this emerging field. And what’s more, the whole journal is open access! For what it’s worth, here’s my contribution:

Axel Bruns. “Making Sense of Society through Social Media.Social Media + Society 1.1 (2015). DOI: 10.1177/2056305115578679.

Along similar lines, my QUT Digital Media Research Centre colleagues and I have also continued our critical engagement with social media and ‘big data’ research methods and approaches, which has resulted in two new book chapters recently.

What If Google Bought Twitter? A Conversation and Some Further Thoughts

Twitter has been in the news recently, for all the wrong reasons. Business media report that Twitter shareholders are disappointed with the company’s latest results; and this follows recent turmoil in the company’s leadership which saw the departure of controversial CEO Dick Costolo and the (temporary) return of co-founder Jack Dorsey until a permanent replacement is found.

All this has served to feed rumours that Google, having recently called time on its own underperforming social network Google+, might be interested in acquiring Twitter. From one perspective, this would clearly make sense – social media are now a key driver of Web traffic and a potentially important advertising market, and Google will not want to remain disconnected from this space for long. On the other hand, though, given its chequered history with the now barely remembered Google Buzz as well as major effort Google+, Twitter users (and the third-party companies that serve this userbase) may well be concerned about what a Google acquisition of the platform may mean for them.

I had the opportunity to explore these questions in some detail in an extended interview with ABC Radio’s Tim Cox last week. In a wide-ranging discussion, we reviewed the issues troubling Google+ and Twitter, and the difficulties facing any player seeking to establish a new social media platform alongside global market leader Facebook. Here’s the audio:

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