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Coming Up Shortly

The annual end-of-year conference season is upon us again, and I’ll be heading off tomorrow to the annual Association of Internet Researchers conference – the most important conference in my field. In spite of the considerable troubles AoIR has faced this year – its first conference location, Bangkok, was no longer feasible following the military coup in Thailand, and there still seem to be some teething problems with the replacement location in Daegu, Korea – it will be great to catch up with leading colleagues in the field again.

This year, we’re presenting the first outcomes of our latest big data studies of the Australian and global Twitterspheres. One major paper will present what we’ve been able to glean so far of the overall patterns within the global Twitter userbase – we now have data on some 870 million Twitter profiles, which provides us with a unique perspective on how Twitter has grown and diversified as a platform. Further, we’ve also got a brand-new map of follower/followee  networks in the Australian Twittersphere, based on our dataset of some 2.8 million Australian users, and we’re using this to explore the footprint of recent television programming to shed new light on second-screen viewing practices, as part of our Telemetrics project (more on this at Darryl Woodford’s site). I’ll be live-blogging the conference again if I can get online, so expect to see much more over the next few days. As a preview, my slides for the two presentations are below.

Twitter Activity in the 2013 Australian Federal Election

My own paper was next at CMPM2014, presenting our work on the Twitter activities by and directed at candidates in the 2013 Australian federal election. Here are the slides, with audio to come:

Twitter in the 2013 Australian Election from Axel Bruns

 

Candidates' Twitter Use in the Western Australian Senate Re-Run Election

Up next at CMPM2014 is Stephen Dann, whose focus is on the use of Twitter by Australian political parties. He followed the 31 of the 77 candidates in the Western Australian Senate re-election who were present on Twitter (27 of whom actually posted any content), and found, in short, that what they were posting was not authentic communication.

Stephen's approach was to examine what candidates were doing in Twitter before, during, and after the election campaign. This may include original content, reactions to other people's tweets, or sharing material from outside of Twitter. Overall, then, tweets fit five broad categories: conversation (through @replies), news updates (sharing newsworthy content), passing along other people's content, maintaining a social presence, and broadcast of experiences and opinion. And spam is another possibility, sadly, often hijacking hashtags or conversations or replaying the same message from multiple accounts.

Mapping the Twittersphere for the EU Election

The final speaker in the ASMC14 session is Axel Maireder, whose focus is on the structure of the Twittersphere surrounding the recent European Union election. His approach is to examine the follower networks of participants in relevant discussions, and to explore which factors explain their structural patterns – such as shared national and language identity, political ideology, or other factors.

The study captured all tweets containing keywords such as European Parliament, European Election, and relevant hashtags (in the various European languages), and gathered tweets from some 440,000 users in total. Filtering these to users with at least two tweets and at least 250 followers resulted in some 11,000 core users who were retained for the network analysis.

Understanding the Norwegian Twitter Elite

The next session at ASMC14 starts with Eirik Vatnøy, who takes a rhetorical perspective in his approach to Twitter. Social media are an arena for political debate, but how do they change the norms and praxis of political rhetoric? Eirik interviewed Twitter users who engaged in continuous political debate on the platform.

Rhetorics considers the public sphere as a reticulate public sphere (made up of many smaller spheres), and this applies to Twitter as well. Actors recognise the discursive and social norms which uphold such spheres, and a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis of communicative activities can help to explore these norms. However, this is a complex challenge, as different users may use the various affordances of Twitter as a platform in different ways.

Eirik interviewed 18 users, chosen through snowball selection; they included active politicians, editors, journalists, bloggers, communication workers, lawyers, etc. Interviews were structured around key themes including perceived affordances, toles and relations, discursive norms, and social norms.

Social Media Use by BBC World Service and Russia Today during the Sochi Games

The final speaker in this ASMC14 session is Marie Gillespie, whose interest is in the tweeting of global events – she focusses here especially on the controversial Sochi Olympics in early 2014, which were also affected by the unfolding political crisis in Ukraine.

One player in the media environment around the Olympics is the Russian state broadcaster Russia Today, whose mission is to present a Russian perspective on world news. It receives $300m per annum, at the same time that comparable public diplomacy broadcasters like BBC World Service or the Australia Network are being downsized or discontinued.

Social Media as a Backchannel to Television in Palestine

The next speaker in this ASMC14 session is Rhiannon Were, whose focus is on the use of social media alongside public broadcasting in the Palestinian Territories. People there feel very powerless towards their leaders, given the lack of effective governance and accountability frameworks, and two political talk shows with ancillary multiplatform elements, conducted in part in collaboration with BBC Arabic, have been created to address this problem. The shows reach an audience of some 500,000 viewers, and research is underway to inform programming, evaluate the project, and generate evidence of impact.

Making Sense of TV Tweeting: The Case of #qanda

Next up at ASMC14 is Philip Pond, whose focus is on tweets during televised political debates in Australia. He takes a particularly temporal perspective to his research, and highlights the impact of electronic media on our experience of time and space; there is a kind of hyper-fast network time which is qualitatively different from its predecessor, the time of the clock.

Philip's focus is on the Australian political talk show Q&A and it's associated hashtag #qanda, which has a weekly audience of around 900,000 viewers. It invites journalists, politicians, and other panellists to its conversations (centred around largely pre-scripted questions), also streams live online. Its hashtag attracts some 20,000 tweets per week, and some 50-100 tweets from this are superimposed onto the live broadcast as the show airs.

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.

Protest Hashtags as Contested Ground: The Case of #idlenomore

Today's first keynote at ASMC14 is by the excellent Alfred Hermida, who uses the Canadian protest hashtag #idlenomore as an example of contested media spaces. In such spaces, which voices are being listened to, and what coverage does this enable?

The #idlenomore movement for Indigenous rights had been going for some time, but really went off when one of the Canadian Indigenous leaders went to meet with PM Stephen Harper about the issued it raised – a move condemned by the protesters who felt that this leader did not speak for the protest movement, since the movement had not emerged from organised Indigenous groups. That condemnation was especially strong on Twitter, with protest leaders actively encouraging followers to tweet their indignation.

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