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Twitter and the Philae Comet Landing

Up next at AoIR 2015 is the fabulous Luca Rossi, whose interest is in how scientific media events are now mediated via Twitter. His focus here is on the Rosetta mission and the Philae probe's landing on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mission was launched before Twitter was, but the approach and landing of the probe was covered closely by dedicated Twitter accounts and in widely promoted hashtags like #WakeUpRosetta.

This created a great deal of awareness and anticipation, and Luca's project gathered some 400,000 tweets related to the relevant hashtags. Using the approach for classifying hashtags that Stefan Stieglitz and I developed, Luca determined that the comet landing behaved more like a crisis event, with substantial percentages of URLs and retweets present in the discussion of Twitter.

Of the accounts participating, the most retweeted accounts belonged to space agencies and similar groups; media accounts were far less prominent. Key themes in the hashtagged discussion included tweets framing the event as breaking news; as a giant leap for humanity; as the culmination of a very long time of work; as Twitter-based interaction with the probe's Twitter account and other relevant accounts; and as sharing information. Tweets defining the media event accounted for more than 14% of all tweets. This can therefore be understood as a post-mass media media event.