This paper reports on methodological developments and research outcomes from the Mapping Online Publics project at QUT. Our research focus has been on understanding the activities of Twitter users around hashtags, especially in the context of ‘acute events’ ranging from natural disasters (the Queensland floods, the earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan) through political crises (leadership challenges and elections) to cultural events (the British royal wedding, major TV events). In the course of our research, we have developed a rich collection of tools for processing, analysing, and visualising large Twitter datasets.
In addition to this focus on hashtag-based interactions, we are also establishing the first comprehensive map of follower/followee relationships in the Australian Twittersphere, in order to understand the underlying structure of the social network of Australian Twitter users and to identify the clusters of shared interest and focus which may exist within it. In the course of this long-term project, we are also working towards a more reliable approximation of the total size of the Australian Twittersphere. This paper will present a progress report on this mapping exercise.