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Expanding the Twitter Universe through Link Analysis

The final speakers in this Digital Methods panel are Jürgen Grimm and Christiane Grill. They're interested in moving beyond the analysis of individual tweets to the aggregation of Twitter data which can be used reliably in media research. This requires the use of transparent and clear search or tracking strategies, and a further manual reduction of the data to weed out irrelevant material; further, the intertextual connections of tweets need to be identified and examined, both between each other and with external texts (e.g. from mass media).

The idea in this is to move from an atomistic Twitter universe, based on individual tweets, to a conversational and/or intermedial Twitter universe (variously recognising tweet relationships through @mentions and retweets, or through links and other pointers to external media texts). In the context of the Salzburg state election in Austria, for example, the former means focussing on conversations rather than individual tweets; the latter means identifying all links being shared by Twitter users and generating a hybrid network including tweets and other resources.

It then becomes possible to compare the fields of politics, for example, which are prominent in the baseline archive of tweets, and those which are prominent in the conversational or intermedial datasets - some themes may generate considerably more discussion or link-sharing than others, thus gaining more relevance. Some themes may also generate especially much link-sharing, but not a great deal of actual conversation - or vice versa. It appears that in many cases, there is more discussion of current problems rather than of possible solutions.