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Social Media

Entering the Late Phase of Late Western Democracy

It is 9 November and there are a few other things going on in the world, but here I am in Prague at the ECREA 2016 conference, which opens this evening with a couple of major keynotes. Time to put the shock about the electoral success of naked neo-fascism in the United States to one side and explore the broader trends in late western democracy, in a keynote by Peter Dahlgren.

He begins by suggesting that the events of today represent a historical rupture; late democracy has become a whole lot later, and the times are a great deal darker than before. We must be worried and angry, even, but also embrace an obstinate optimism that develops a vision for the future. We are now in a qualitatively different situation.

The Logics and Grammars of Social Media

The final speaker in this AoIR 2016 session is Caja Thimm, whose interest is in the role of Twitter in politics. She begins by noting the transnational adoption of standard Twitter affordances across a variety of political uses, by actors on all sides (from protesters to police). This can be understood using a functional operator model across the levels of Twitter operators, text, and function; but this is merely functional and not analytical. More needs to be done here.

The Dynamics of Feminist Hashtags

The next speaker at AoIR 2016 is Jacqueline Vickery, whose focus is on the use of feminist hashtags such as #YesAllWomen as networked publics. These combine affective expressions of support with intimate citizenship and political activism in an ad hoc way. Political and affective dimensions are combined with the goals of such actions, and coordinated through the affordances of the platforms, such as the mechanism of hashtags themselves.

Corporate Responses to Hate Speech on Social Media

The next speaker in this packed AoIR 2016 session is Eugenia Siapera, whose focus is on hate speech and its regulation in social media. This is analysed by examining the Terms of Service of major social media platforms, as well as through interviews with key informants from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. What constitutes acceptable and non-acceptable speech from the point of view of these companies? What underlying ideologies does this point to?

Cloud Protesting through Social Media

The final (no, really) session at AoIR 2016 starts with a paper by Stefania Milan, whose interest is in online protest. She begins by noting that semiotechnologies now play an important role as brokers. The emerging protest/media configurations affect the materiality of the process of meaning construction.

Thinking through the Parameters for Online Political Discourse

The final speaker in this morning panel at AoIR 2016 is Elliot Panek, who points out that social media are only one venue for political discourse, and that different platforms support different forms and qualities of discourse. Is it possible to develop robust, lasting frameworks for understanding such discourse that are not inherently tied to specific specific platforms, then?

Second-Screen Engagement with Chilean Political Talk Shows

The next speakers at AoIR 2016 are Daniela Ibarra Herrera and Johann W. Unger, whose focus is on second-screen engagement with Chilean political talk shows. These shows often show tweets on screen, and promote their own hashtags as a form of engagement. There are current constitutional problems in Chile, as a hangover from the Pinochet dictatorship, and there are also ongoing issues with political corruption; this means that there is considerable engagement with current political debates.

Uses of WhatsApp for Political Debate in Israel

The next AoIR 2016 speaker is Neta Kligler-Vilenchik, who shifts our focus to the use of WhatsApp groups for informal political talk, especially in an Israeli context. In Israel there is a comparatively more open environment for online political talk, but also a greater propensity to violent, inciting, or racist discussion, especially in the context of major political, military, and terrorist events.

A Network Perspective on the Twitter Reaction to David Bowie's Death

The final presenters in this AoIR 2016 session are my colleagues Peta Mitchell and Felix Münch, who also focus on the Twitter reaction to David Bowie's death. Twitter as a platform can be useful for studying public responses to such events, but at the same time the focus on a hashtag only also limits the study to deliberately self-selecting tweets and users; a focus on 'Bowie' as a keyword provides a different perspective. This is also complicated by the one percent rate limit of the Twitter API, as 'Bowie' tweets spiked well above that limit.

Fan Reactions to David Bowie's Death on Twitter

The next paper in this AoIR 2016 session is by Hilde van den Bulck, which shifts our focus to the mourning of David Bowie after his death on 10 January 2016. Bowie had had a stellar and constantly shifting career, of course, but had also managed to keep his private life comparatively private, which is why his death came quite unexpectedly. Not least because of this there was a massive reaction to news of his death on Facebook and Twitter.

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