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Theorising Twitter Block Bots

The final speaker in this AoIR 2015 session is Stuart Geiger, whose interest is in the collective block lists on Twitter that are developed by anti-harassment communities. This bypasses or sits alongside Twitter's own, 'official' anti-harassment (and anti-spam, etc.) efforts.

Tweeting Styles of Candidate Accounts in US Gubernatorial Contests

The next speaker at AoIR 2015 is Sikana Tanupabrungsun, whose focus is on the use of Twitter by gubernatorial candidates in 36 state elections across the United States in 2014. The focus here is on @mentioning between candidates, and the analysis was conducted using automated content analysis approaches. This found that the most frequent mode of address was to attack other candidates.

What Twitter Fights Reveal about White Myopia

The next speaker in this AoIR 2015 session is Michael Humphrey, whose interest is in life stories in digital spaces. Today's talk is focussed on the idea of white privilege, however: this can also be understood through the language we use, which colours how we see the world around us. We look at life through many filters, and tell our story through these filters; some of us take an agentic approach to telling our stories (we are at the centre), while others take a more communal approach (we are part of a group).

#JeNeSuisPasCharlie: Critical Responses to the Charlie Hebdo Shooting

The first presenter at AoIR 2015 this morning is Fabio Giglietto, whose interest is in the Twitter response to the Charlie Hebdo attack. Very quickly, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie emerged to express sympathy and support for the magazine; a negative #JeNeSuisPasCharlie also emerged, however, to critique the magazine's actions. Fabio's interest here is in how this hashtag was discursively positioned.

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.

Does Humour Belong in Politics (on Twitter)?

The next speakers at AoIR 2015 are Kristen Guth and Alex Leavitt, who begin by highlighting Twitter's 2015 attempts to reduce the plagiarism of jokes by retweeting. Their real focus is on humour during the 2012 presidential debates in the US, though, and they focus on the three presidential debates during the campaign.

AoIR 2015: Some Notes ahead of the Digital Methods Pre-Conference Session

It's that time of the year when everything else stops and the international community of Internet researchers assembles for the annual AoIR conference. This time we're in Phoenix – arguably the warmest location AoIR has held its conference to date, and a trend very much worth continuing. I have a particularly good reason for coming to the conference this year – in addition to the usual programme of keynotes and presentations, my colleagues have seen fit to elect me as Vice-President of the Association of Internet Researchers, and I'm humbled by the honour of being able to help AoIR continue to flourish.

We start this year's conference with the pre-conference events, and here the QUT Digital Media Research Centre has put together a one-day research methods workshop which has turned out to be popular beyond expectations – with around 100 attendees for this workshop alone, we've had to make some last-minute adjustments to the format and programme of the event. Some of what could have worked as hands-on elements will now need to turn into methods demos, and this goes especially for my workshop on analysing Twitter data, gathered with TCAT, by using Tableau and Gephi.

Some New Publications

It’s been some time since I last posted an update on my latest publications – though you may have seen that on the front page of this site, I’ve updated the banner of the most recent books I’ve been featured in, at last. There is quite a lot more work in the pipeline for the immediate future, including a major new collection which I’ve edited with colleagues in Norway and Sweden – more on that soon.

For now, though, you wouldn’t go wrong if you started by checking out the new journal Social Media + Society, which I’m delighted to be involved in as a member of the Editorial Board. We launched issue 1.1 with a collection of brief manifesto pieces that outline why the study of social media and their impacts on society is so important, featuring many leading researchers in this emerging field. And what’s more, the whole journal is open access! For what it’s worth, here’s my contribution:

Axel Bruns. “Making Sense of Society through Social Media.Social Media + Society 1.1 (2015). DOI: 10.1177/2056305115578679.

Along similar lines, my QUT Digital Media Research Centre colleagues and I have also continued our critical engagement with social media and ‘big data’ research methods and approaches, which has resulted in two new book chapters recently.

What If Google Bought Twitter? A Conversation and Some Further Thoughts

Twitter has been in the news recently, for all the wrong reasons. Business media report that Twitter shareholders are disappointed with the company’s latest results; and this follows recent turmoil in the company’s leadership which saw the departure of controversial CEO Dick Costolo and the (temporary) return of co-founder Jack Dorsey until a permanent replacement is found.

All this has served to feed rumours that Google, having recently called time on its own underperforming social network Google+, might be interested in acquiring Twitter. From one perspective, this would clearly make sense – social media are now a key driver of Web traffic and a potentially important advertising market, and Google will not want to remain disconnected from this space for long. On the other hand, though, given its chequered history with the now barely remembered Google Buzz as well as major effort Google+, Twitter users (and the third-party companies that serve this userbase) may well be concerned about what a Google acquisition of the platform may mean for them.

I had the opportunity to explore these questions in some detail in an extended interview with ABC Radio’s Tim Cox last week. In a wide-ranging discussion, we reviewed the issues troubling Google+ and Twitter, and the difficulties facing any player seeking to establish a new social media platform alongside global market leader Facebook. Here’s the audio:

Postdoc Position Available: Public Sphere Theory and Social Media Analytics

In addition to the PhD position I advertised last week, I am now also offering a two-year, full-time postdoc position on the same project at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia (international applicants are very welcome). If you’re interested and qualified for the position, please submit a detailed application through the QUT jobs Website, responding to the selection criteria. Full details for the job can be found there, and below I’m including the key details from the job description:

Position Purpose

This appointment supports an ARC Future Fellowship research project investigating intermedia information flows in the Australian online public sphere. The emergence of new media forms has led to a profound transformation of the Australian media environment: mainstream, niche, and social media intersect in many ways, online and offline. Increased access to large-scale data on public communication online enables an observation of how the nation responds to the news of the day, how themes and topics unfold, and how interest publics develop and decline over time. This project uses such observations to trace how information flows across media spaces, and to develop a new model of the online public sphere. It makes significant contributions to innovation in research methods in the digital humanities, and provides an important basis for policies aimed at closing digital and social divides. Research on the project commenced in April 2014.

The Postdoctoral Research Fellow will contribute to project management and undertake specific research tasks and will also be involved in the supervision of one of the PhD students associated with the project. The position will be based at QUT in Brisbane, and will support the timely analysis of public communication activities which relate to current debates. The presence of this full-time staff member will ensure the project’s agility in responding to unfolding events, and substantially enhance its ability to engage in and impact on public debate over the lifetime of the Future Fellowship.

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