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Patterns in Social TV in Italy

The next session at ASMC14 is about social media and TV, and Donatella Selva is the first presenter, examining social TV in the Italian context. Television remains the main source of information for the Italian population, while some 44% of people use Facebook and some 10% are using Twitter. However, Twitter is also an elite medium attracting especially influential users, including journalists and celebrities.

Clear definitions of social TV are difficult. 'Hard' definitions focus on the technology, while 'soft' definitions point to the use of social media alongside television. It is also possible to distinguish between mere access, participation, and interaction with TV through social media, and it's necessary to think through what the social media publics around television actually constitute.

Donatella combined quantitative and qualitative analyses of Twitter activity around television texts – including Twitter data work and interviews with selected users. She studied the hashtag activities around 11 free-to-air TV shows (only political shows, I think) during the shows' broadcasts during the last quarter of 2012.

She developed a matrix of participation forms from access to interaction, and from practical to symbolic meaning; this provides social activity forms centred around individuation and identification as well as around social monitoring; civic and informative uses including pure information, opinion sharing, attention-seeking, and fact-checking; emotional uses including emotional outbursts and sports-style cheering on in response to TV content (such emotional uses were especially prominent during the shows' broadcasts); and recreational uses of social media alongside TV shows, including entertainment and bonding.

In every use of social TV, there is political and public involvement, but this is not necessarily connected to offline participation. Participation was also still anchored to broadcast logic: people engaged most with shows which actively encouraged audience comments.