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QUT Digital Media Research Centre

A New Map of the Australian Twittersphere

Together with some of my colleagues from the QUT Digital Media Research Centre, I’ve just released a new, detailed analysis of the structure of the Australian Twittersphere. Covering some 3.72 million Australian Twitter accounts, the 167 million follower/followee connections between them, and the 118 million tweets posted by these accounts during the first quarter of 2017, the new article with Brenda Moon, Felix Münch, and Troy Sadkowsky, published in December 2017 in the open-access journal Social Media + Society, maps the structure of the best-connected core of the Australian Twittersphere network:

The Australian Twittersphere in 2016: Mapping the Follower/Followee Network

Twitter is now a key platform for public communication between a diverse range of participants, but the overall shape of the communication network it provides remains largely unknown. This article provides a detailed overview of the network structure of the Australian Twittersphere and identifies the thematic drivers of the key clusters within the network. We identify some 3.72 million Australian Twitter accounts and map the follower/followee connections between the 255,000 most connected accounts; we utilize community detection algorithms to identify the major clusters within this network and examine their account populations to identify their constitutive themes; we examine account creation dates and reconstruct a timeline for the Twitter adoption process among different communities; and we examine lifetime and recent tweeting patterns to determine the historically and currently most active clusters in the network. In combination, this offers the first rigorous and comprehensive study of the network structure of an entire national Twittersphere.

I published a preview of some of the study’s key findings in The Conversation in May 2017. Meanwhile, my paper at the Future of Journalism conference in Cardiff in September 2017 built on this new Twittersphere map to test for the existence of echo chambers and filter bubbles in Australian Twitter – and found little evidence to support the thesis:

2016 Publications Round-Up

We’re already deep into February 2017, but I thought I’d finally put together an overview of what I’ve been up to during the past year, at least as far as research outputs are concerned. It’s been a busy year by any measure, with a number of key projects coming to completion; research publications from some of these are still in production, but here’s what’s already come out.

Situating Digital Methods

Our Digital Methods pre-conference workshop at AoIR 2016, combining presenters from the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam and the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology starts with a presentation by Richard Rogers on the recent history of digital methods. He points out the gradual transition from a conceptualisation of the Internet and the Web as cyberspace or as a virtual space to an understanding of the Web as inherently linked with the 'real' world: online rather than offline becomes the baseline, and there is an increasing sense of online groundedness.

New Publications, and Coming Attractions

I’m delighted to share a couple of new publications written with my esteemed colleagues in the QUT Digital Media Research Centre – and as if we weren’t working on enough research projects already, this year is about to get an awful lot busier soon, too. First, though, to the latest articles:

Axel Bruns, Brenda Moon, Avijit Paul, and Felix Münch. “Towards a Typology of Hashtag Publics: A Large-Scale Comparative Study of User Engagement across Trending Topics.Communication Research and Practice 2.1 (2016): 20-46.

This article, in a great special issue of Communication Research and Practice on digital media research methods that was edited by my former PhD student Jonathon Hutchinson, updates my previous work with Stefan Stieglitz that explored some key metrics for a broad range of hashtag datasets and identified some possible types of hashtags using those metrics. In this new work, we find that the patterns we documented then still hold today, and add some further pointers towards other types of hashtags. We’re particularly thankful to our colleagues Jan Schmidt, Fabio Giglietto, Steven McDermott, Till Keyling, Xi Cui, Steffen Lemke, Isabella Peters, Athanasios Mazarakis, Yu-Chung Cheng, and Pailin Chen, who contributed some of their own datasets to our analysis.

Folker Hanusch and Axel Bruns. “Journalistic Branding on Twitter: A Representative Study of Australian Journalists’ Profile Descriptions.Digital Journalism (2016).

QUT Digital Media Research Centre PhD Scholarships for 2016 Entry

The Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), where I am based, is now calling for expressions of interest from prospective postgraduate research students as part of the University’s annual Scholarship Round.

The DMRC conducts world-leading research that helps society understand and adapt to the changing digital media environment. It is the leading Australian centre for the fields of media and communication – areas in which QUT has achieved the highest possible rankings in ERA, the national research quality assessment exercise. We are actively engaged with the Asian region across all our research programs; and we have a strong commitment to research training for academic and industry researchers alike. 

Applicants with excellent academic track records (equal to an Australian Bachelor Degree with First Class Honours) or equivalent research experience may be eligible for competitive PhD scholarships to undertake study with us. Successful applicants will work on topics that align closely with one or more of our four research programs. The DMRC is also offering a number of additional top-ups to these scholarships for highly ranked students.

Closing date: 30th September 2015 (earlier enquiries essential)

Further information on our research programs, PhD topics for 2016, and how to apply is here:  http://tinyurl.com/dmrcphd

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