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'Big Data'

Towards Mixed Methods for Analysing Multimodal Communication

The next session at "Compromised Data" starts with Frauke Zeller, who begins by noting the multimodality of communication, including through social media: many texts are using more than one semiotic mode, combining text, images, audio and video. How can the existing methods for studying multimodality be transferred to online environments, and to research building on 'big data', however?

Some such work begins with exploring the networks between users, and between texts, but this is not enough - how do we move from the macro to the meso and micro levels of communication? How do we move to the manifest to more latent content, especially where non-textual content is involved?

Reaching for the Higher-Hanging Fruit in Twitter Research

The next paper at the "Compromised Data" symposium is by Jean Burgess and me, and explores the more difficult forms of 'big data' research we're rarely conducting at present because the political economy of data access is weighted against specific approaches - in the specific context of Twitter research. I'll upload the slides and audio for it as soon as possible - for now, consider this a placeholder! Slides and audio below:

Developing Alternative Approaches to Sampling Social Media Data

The next speaker at "Compromised Data" today is Carolin Gerlitz, who begins by suggesting that social media data are both standardised and vague at the same time. She notes the German Twitter community which is focussed around favouriting on Twitter: the Favstar sphere sees favourites as a sign of importance and validation, and taking away favourites is therefore a serious affront.

This is an example of how the communicative affordances of social media platforms are being utilised by their users; these standardised activities mark the grammar of action on such platforms, and are specific to the particular platforms. Twitter's grammar has been comparatively stable, while Facebook has modified its available actions on a continuous basis, which destabilised the meaning of such activities.

Understanding Social Media APIs as Quasi-Objects

From the always fabulous Association of Internet Researchers conference I've made it to the research colloquium "Compromised Data", organised by Greg Elmer and Ganaele Langlois in Toronto. We're starting with a presentation from Taina Bucher, on the enactive power of APIs. Beyond merely helping to collect data, APIs have a number of other functions. We must not get too seduced by the opportunities for data access and visualisation which they provide, but take APIs seriously as a mechanism for making meaning from data that privileges certain approaches over others.

This means a kind of "digital humanities" in reverse is required to understand these tools and their implications - a software studies perspective on APIs, from an expanded notion of software as a neighbourhood of relations that enables software to be studied in the same way as other cultural objects.

Some Recent and Upcoming Work

When this site goes quiet, it’s usually because work is exceptionally busy. My apologies for the long silence since the launch of our major collection A Companion to New Media Dynamics – a range of projects, variously relating to the uses of social media in crisis communication, of Twitter in a number of national elections, of social media as a second-screen backchannel to televised events, and of ‘big data’ in researching online issue publics, have kept me occupied for the past eight months or so.

Now, I’m about to head off to Denver for the annual Association of Internet Researchers conference and on to a number of other events, and you can expect the usual bout of live blogging from these conferences – but before I do so, here’s a quick update of some of the major publications and papers I’ve completed during the past few months. For some more frequent updates on the work of my colleagues and me, you can also follow our updates at Mapping Online Publics and the site of the QUT Social Media Research Group, of course. On the SMRG site, we’ve also posted a list of the presentations we’ll be making at AoIR and beyond – hope to see you there!

Neue Öffentlichkeiten auf Social-Media-Plattformen: Zur Nutzung von 'Big Data' in der Kommunikationsforschung (LMU-CAS 2013)

Centre for Advanced Studies 2013

Neue Öffentlichkeiten auf Social-Media-Plattformen: Zur Nutzung von ‚Big Data‘ in der Kommunikationsforschung

Axel Bruns

Social-Media-Plattformen wie Facebook und insbesondere Twitter stellen eine große Menge öffentlicher Nutzer- und Nutzungsdaten zur weiteren Verwertung durch Markt- und Hochschulforschung bereit. Diese ‚Big Data‘ unterstützen eine in dieser Form bislang noch nicht möglich gewesene, breit aufgebaute Untersuchung aktueller Kommunikationsprozesse, die den Begriff der Öffentlichkeit bis auf die „persönlichen Öffentlichkeiten“ (Schmidt, 2009), die um einzelne Social-Media-Accounts herum entstehen, ausweiten kann. Dieser Vortrag stellt erste Ergebnisse eines solchen Forschungsansatzes am Beispiel der Nutzung von Twitter in Australien dar, wo (für etwa 22 Mio. Einwohner) um die 2-2½ Mio. Twitter-Accounts existieren. Ein besonderes Interesse gilt dabei der politischen sowie der Krisenkommunikation.

Mapping the Australian Twittersphere (MIT8 2013)

Media in Transition 8

Mapping the Australian Twittersphere

Jean Burgess and Axel Bruns

This paper maps networks of affiliation and interest in the Australian Twittersphere and explores their structural relationships to a range of issues-based ad hoc publics (Bruns, Burgess 2011). Using custom network crawling technology, we have conducted a snowball crawl of Twitter accounts operated by Australian users to identify more than one million users and their follower / followee relationships, and have mapped their interconnections. In itself, the map provides an overview of the major clusters of densely interlinked users, largely centred on shared topics of interest (from politics through parenting to arts and sport) and/or socio-demographic factors (geographic origins, age groups). Our map of the Twittersphere is the first of its kind for the Australian part of the global Twitter network, and also provides a first independent and scholarly estimation of the size of the total Australian Twitter population. In combination with our investigation of participation patterns in specific thematic hashtags, the map also enables us to examine which areas of the underlying follower / followee network are activated in the discussion of specific current topics – allowing new insights into the extent to which particular topics and issues are of interest to specialized niches or to the Australian public more broadly. Finally, we investigate the circulation of links to the articles published by a number of major Australian news organisations across the network.

A Final 2012 Publications Round-Up

As we’re hurtling down the last few hours towards 2013, it seems like a good idea to take stock of what was an incredibly busy 2012. Here, then, is a round-up of all (I think) of my publications and presentations for the year, organised into loose thematic categories. In all, and with my various collaborators from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation and beyond, I seem to have generated some 4 book chapters, 12 journal articles, 22 conference presentations and one major report – and that’s not counting various articles in The Guardian, The Conversation, and other media outlets. There’s also a few more articles still in the pipeline – but given today’s date, I suspect they’ll end up counting towards 2013 rather than 2012…


Social Media Research Methods

One major component of our Mapping Online Publics work for this year has been the further development of our social media research approaches, especially as far as Twitter research is concerned. A number of my publications have dealt with the practical aspects of this work:


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