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Tracking Mentions of Social Media Sources in Mainstream U.S. Newspapers

Tim Baikjewicz is the next speaker at Future of Journalism 2011, and his interest, too, is in social media in journalism. They have now become an obsession for many news media; news organisations are focussing mainly on pushing content, cultivating sources, and building ‘communities’ (though their understanding of community might be substantially different from those of actual social media users).

It is also interesting in this context to examine the social media sources that news media now draw on. This follows the trajectory of previous work examining the use of blog-based material by major news organisations. How do newspapers use social media sources, then, how often and prominently do they do so, and are there obvious differences in how they are used?

Journalistic Use and Verification of Twitter-Sourced Information

The next session at Future of Journalism 2011 starts with the fabulous Alfred Hermida, whose focus is on the shift of news organisations to digital, networked environments, with specific reference to Twitter. How do journalists find a place in this, and especially, how do they deal with verifying information on those platforms?

Twitter is used for a variety of purposes, of course, and the volume of messages on this platform is immense. This represents the lives, interests, and views of its users – and includes acts of journalism; Twitter can be seen as a platform for ambient journalism, therefore. This challenges established ways of communication for journalism, usually about current things, and it disrupts the way we think about space and time, private and public. For journalists, it disrupts truth (or the pursuit of truth, which they have elevated to their ultimate professional goal): discovering and reporting truth by journalism is seen as essential to the profession.

Futures for Journalism

If it’s Thursday, it must be Wales: I’ve made it to the Future of Journalism conference in Cardiff, which starts with a keynote by Emily Bell. She begins by noting that discussions about the future of journalism only started in the UK with the Murdoch papers’ move to Wapping, and it has been mainly about the role of technology in the transformation of journalism; before then, there was a strong commitment to continue doing journalism as it had always been done.

Today, journalism is becoming less defined by the business models that support it, and more by the activities which it consists of – types of journalistic activity are now scattered widely across many domains. Journalism is a craft, and arguing over who might or might not be a journalism today is futile. If Julian Assange or Rebekah Brooks say they’re journalists, or a random citizen taking first-hand footage does so, who is to say they aren’t? We may gather random forms of activity, and ask whether they are journalistic, but there’s little point in doing so any more.

The Use of Twitter Hashtags in the Formation of Ad Hoc Publics (ECPR 2011)

European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR 2011)

The Use of Twitter Hashtags in the Formation of Ad Hoc Publics

Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess

As the use of Twitter has become more commonplace throughout many nations, its role in political discussion has also increased. This has been evident in contexts ranging from general political discussion through local, state, and national elections (such as in the 2010 Australian elections) to protests and other activist mobilisation (for example in the current uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, as well as in the controversy around WikiLeaks).

Research into the use of Twitter in such political contexts has also developed rapidly, aided by substantial advancements in quantitative and qualitative methodologies for capturing, processing, analysing, and visualising Twitter updates by large groups of users. Recent work has especially highlighted the role of the Twitter hashtag – a short keyword, prefixed with the hash symbol ‘#’ – as a means of coordinating a distributed discussion between more or less large groups of users, who do not need to be connected through existing ‘follower’ networks.

Twitter hashtags – such as ‘#ausvotes’ for the 2010 Australian elections, ‘#londonriots’ for the coordination of information and political debates around the recent unrest in London, or ‘#wikileaks’ for the controversy around WikiLeaks thus aid the formation of ad hoc publics around specific themes and topics. They emerge from within the Twitter community – sometimes as a result of pre-planning or quickly reached consensus, sometimes through protracted debate about what the appropriate hashtag for an event or topic should be (which may also lead to the formation of competing publics using different hashtags).

Drawing on innovative methodologies for the study of Twitter content, this paper examines the use of hashtags in political debate in the context of a number of major case studies.

Making Sense of Online Media during French Presidential Elections

The next speakers at ECPR 2011 are Jean-Marc Francony and Françoise Papa, who take an information science approach. They begin by noting that their research encountered a number of major methodological difficulties – challenging problems to learn from for further research.

The Web has become more important for the communication of politics in France. TV and traditional mass media still remained the first channels of communication for political parties, and as a tool for politicians to present themselves, and Websites of political parties mainly pursued a top-down communication model in the 2007 presidential campaign, but this is slowly changing. The Web is now established as an additional channel for information; can this new media context change political communication?

Making Sense of Twitter Hashtags as Ad Hoc Publics

Our paper was next at ECPR 2011 – and we presented our thoughts on the role of Twitter hashtags in providing a space for ad hoc online publics. This also builds on some of the work we’ve done during our week-long workshop at the University of Münster last week. I’ll add audio shortly Audio included below, PDF available here:

Uses of the Internet in Political Campaigning in Italy

The final speaker in this ECPR 2011 session is Giovanna Mascheroni (or is it Alice Mattoni?), whose interest is in online politics in Italian regional elections during 2010. Her team developed a code book for assessing online party presence and performance during these elections, which is now also being applied to local and European elections. This included Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube as well as general online presence.

To what extent does the use of social media in Italian elections bear any traits of a convergence culture, with political debate taking on elements of transmedia storytelling involving different political actors? To what extent did candidates appropriate the interactive potential of social media?

Social Media Use by Candidates in Australian Federal Elections

The next ECPR 2011 speaker is Rachel Gibson, who focusses on online campaigning in the 2010 Australian federal election. Has the type of Web campaigning that candidates engage in changed over time, and who is using social media for their campaigning activities? And does it matter – in other words, does it convert to support?

Part of this is related to the normalisation vs. equalisation debate – does online campaigning level the playing field between larger and smaller parties, or do the larger, richer parties also spend more funds on online campaigning (and more effectively so)? Is this different again with the move from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0? And how effective are these different modes of campaigning in generating support for a party?


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