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Launch of Policy Report on Social Media and Emergency Management Organisations

Over the past three years, my colleagues and I at Queensland University of Technology have partnered with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) and the Eidos Institute to undertake an Australian Research Council Linkage project to analyse and evaluate how social media are used by emergency management authorities, media organisations and citizens during recent natural disasters events.

Report launchDuring this time we have worked closely with officers from several Australian emergency management organisations to better understand from their practical experience how social media are used in emergency communications, and to find out those areas that are working well as well as those where improvements can be made. As a result of our research and industry discussions, it became apparent that there is a need for a national policy framework that addresses the use of social media in crisis communication, particularly to support the development of effective social media communication strategies and the positioning, resourcing, and training of social media units and/or staff in emergency management agencies and local governments. The Social Media Policy Report Support Frameworks for the Use of Social Media by Emergency Management Organisations has been developed to address this need, and it was launched at Old Government House, Brisbane, by Teresa Gambaro MP on Friday 13 November 2015.

Four New Chapters on the Challenges of Doing Twitter Research

One more post before I head home from the AoIR 2015 conference in Phoenix: during the conference, I also received my author’s copy of Hashtag Publics, an excellent new collection edited by Nathan Rambukkana. In this collection, Jean Burgess and I published an updated version of our paper from the ECPR conference in Reykjavík, which conceptualises (some) hashtag communities as ad hoc publics – and Theresa Sauter and I also have a chapter in the book that explores the #auspol hashtag for Australian politics.

Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess. “Twitter Hashtags from Ad Hoc to Calculated Publics.” In Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks, ed. Nathan Rambukkana. New York: Peter Lang, 2015. 13-28.

Theresa Sauter and Axel Bruns. “#auspol: The Hashtag as Community, Event, and Material Object for Engaging with Australian Politics.” In Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks, ed. Nathan Rambukkana. New York: Peter Lang, 2015. 47-60.

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.

Conference Blogging Coming Up

I’m currently on the road again, as part of a trip which has already taken me through Hamburg (for a meeting with our research partners at the Hans-Bredow-Institut) and Göttingen (for the inaugural workshop of our new ATN-DAAD-funded research collaboration with colleagues at the Göttingen Digital Humanities Centre. The latter will focus especially on developing new methods for analysing and visualising social media networks, building on the considerable work we’ve already done in this area – and at the workshop last week we’ve already made good progress towards a few new ideas for what we can do. With my colleagues Jean Burgess and Darryl Woodford I also participated in a public symposium at the GCDH, and I’ll make the slides and audio from our talk available here soon.

A Mid-Year Update of Recent Publications

I’ve continued to update my lists of publications and presentations over the past months, but I think it’s time to do another quick round-up of recent work before all the new projects start in earnest.

First off, my colleagues Darryl Woodford, Troy Sadkowsky and I have been making some good progress developing further methodological approaches to Twitter research – focussing this time especially on examining how accounts gain their followers (for some of the outcomes from that research, also see our coverage at Mapping Online Publics):

Axel Bruns, Darryl Woodford, and Troy Sadkowsky. “Towards a Methodology for Examining Twitter Follower Accession.First Monday 19.4 (2014).

Axel Bruns and Darryl Woodford. “Identifying the Events That Connect Social Media Users: Charting Follower Accession on Twitter.” In SAGE Research Methods Cases. London: Sage, 2013.

More generally, I’ve also been involved in a couple of related publications led by Stefan Stieglitz from the University of Münster (one in English,  one in German) which highlight the contribution which the emerging field of social media analytics will be able to make to the disciplines of business informatics and information systems:

Twitter and Society

Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has evolved from a niche service to a mass phenomenon; it has become instrumental for everyday communication as well as for political debates, crisis communication, marketing, and cultural participation. But the basic idea behind it has stayed the same: users may post short messages (tweets) of up to 140 characters and follow the updates posted by other users. Drawing on the experience of leading international Twitter researchers from a variety of disciplines and contexts, this is the first book to document the various notions and concepts of Twitter communication, providing a detailed and comprehensive overview of current research into the uses of Twitter. It also presents methods for analysing Twitter data and outlines their practical application in different research contexts. 

This collection of important work – featuring both well-known and emerging scholars from diverse disciplines – helps contextualise Twitter as a sociotechnical phenomenon. It will serve as a crucial foundation for new research while also offering useful perspectives for educators helping students to understand social media. By going beyond naïve stereotypes and revealing the complex practices and diverse users that help define Twitter, this book provides rich insights into the importance of social media in contemporary life.

-- danah boyd, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research and Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University

Talk of Big Data is everywhere, as contributors to this book rightly note. This timely collection, bringing together noted scholars and academics who work in the area, offers important insight into Big Data through a focus on the most important real-time stream message bus today, namely Twitter. Covering key aspects of Twitter social use and practices, Twitter and Society is a key text for providing empirical and methodological reflection on a fast-moving and important area of research.

-- David M. Berry, Reader in Media & Communication and Co-Director of the Centre for Material Digital Culture at Sussex University

Twitter and Society was released by Peter Lang, New York, in November 2013.

Now Out: Twitter and Society

I am delighted to report the culmination of a very intensive, highly collaborative project: our new book Twitter and Society, edited by Katrin Weller, Jean Burgess, Merja Mahrt, Cornelius Puschmann, and me, was launched at the Association of Internet Researchers conference in Denver a few days ago and is now available from Amazon and the Peter Lang Website. I’m very pleased that we managed to get the first copies of the book printed in time for the conference, to be able to hand them to the many of our contributors who were present at AoIR 2013.

The book is a 450-page anthology of the very best of current Twitter research, providing a comprehensive overview of research methods, concepts, challenges, and applications. It features some 31 chapters, a foreword by the University of Amsterdam’s Richard Rogers – and we’re particularly proud to have been able to use the painting Die Zwitschermaschine (The Twittering Machine) by Paul Klee as the book cover. Many, many thanks to our 45 contributors for their fabulous contributions. A full list of chapters is below – and here’s a group photo from the launch at AoIR 2013. You can also follow further updates about the book at @twitsocbook!

Twitter and Society Has Been Launched

I'll be writing much more about this very soon, but for now just a quick note to say that one of the major events at AoIR 2013 was the launch of Twitter and Society, the new collection edited by Katrin Weller, Jean Burgess, Merja Mahrt, Cornelius Puschmann and me which will be published by Peter Lang in the coming days. The book contains more than 30 chapters by a stellar line-up of Internet scholars, and should be listed on Amazon and the Peter Lang site within the next week - I'll post an update then. For a preview of what's covered, and for further updates, check the @twitsocbook Twitter account - and for now, here's a group shot of some of our contributors and editors, with the very first copies of the book.

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!

Introducing the Companion to New Media Dynamics

I’m delighted to announce the completion of another major project: Blackwell has just published A Companion to New Media Dynamics, edited by my CCI colleagues John Hartley, Jean Burgess, and me. The title of this substantial volume may seem a little strange at first – why not just “… to New Media”? –, but with this collection we aimed specifically to highlight new media as a set of dynamic, evolving, and sometimes elusive practices rather than a static, easily defined thing.

The volume brings together contributions from a long list of researchers in the field, and combines international research leaders with key emerging scholars who will drive the next generation of new media and Internet research. But don’t take my word for it – take Toby Miller’s: “We are fortunate indeed to have this tour d'horizon of young and middle-aged media across Europe, North America, and Asia. It features an array of established and emergent writers whose clear prose and thorough research mark out their work.”

My own chapter in the book provides a historical overview of the development of personal presence online: it charts the course of evolution from hand-coded homepages to social network profiles, taking in a few detours and possible dead ends (GeoCities, anyone?) along the way. My sense is that there’s a continuing struggle between experimentation and standardisation which has had us oscillating between these two extremes; at the moment, the relative rigidity of Facebook and Twitter profile templates places us closer towards the standardised, “one size fits all” end. Perhaps it’s time for the pendulum to swing back again soon?

Here’s a complete list of chapters:


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