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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.

What If Google Bought Twitter? A Conversation and Some Further Thoughts

Twitter has been in the news recently, for all the wrong reasons. Business media report that Twitter shareholders are disappointed with the company’s latest results; and this follows recent turmoil in the company’s leadership which saw the departure of controversial CEO Dick Costolo and the (temporary) return of co-founder Jack Dorsey until a permanent replacement is found.

All this has served to feed rumours that Google, having recently called time on its own underperforming social network Google+, might be interested in acquiring Twitter. From one perspective, this would clearly make sense – social media are now a key driver of Web traffic and a potentially important advertising market, and Google will not want to remain disconnected from this space for long. On the other hand, though, given its chequered history with the now barely remembered Google Buzz as well as major effort Google+, Twitter users (and the third-party companies that serve this userbase) may well be concerned about what a Google acquisition of the platform may mean for them.

I had the opportunity to explore these questions in some detail in an extended interview with ABC Radio’s Tim Cox last week. In a wide-ranging discussion, we reviewed the issues troubling Google+ and Twitter, and the difficulties facing any player seeking to establish a new social media platform alongside global market leader Facebook. Here’s the audio:

Postdoc Position Available: Public Sphere Theory and Social Media Analytics

In addition to the PhD position I advertised last week, I am now also offering a two-year, full-time postdoc position on the same project at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia (international applicants are very welcome). If you’re interested and qualified for the position, please submit a detailed application through the QUT jobs Website, responding to the selection criteria. Full details for the job can be found there, and below I’m including the key details from the job description:

Position Purpose

This appointment supports an ARC Future Fellowship research project investigating intermedia information flows in the Australian online public sphere. The emergence of new media forms has led to a profound transformation of the Australian media environment: mainstream, niche, and social media intersect in many ways, online and offline. Increased access to large-scale data on public communication online enables an observation of how the nation responds to the news of the day, how themes and topics unfold, and how interest publics develop and decline over time. This project uses such observations to trace how information flows across media spaces, and to develop a new model of the online public sphere. It makes significant contributions to innovation in research methods in the digital humanities, and provides an important basis for policies aimed at closing digital and social divides. Research on the project commenced in April 2014.

The Postdoctoral Research Fellow will contribute to project management and undertake specific research tasks and will also be involved in the supervision of one of the PhD students associated with the project. The position will be based at QUT in Brisbane, and will support the timely analysis of public communication activities which relate to current debates. The presence of this full-time staff member will ensure the project’s agility in responding to unfolding events, and substantially enhance its ability to engage in and impact on public debate over the lifetime of the Future Fellowship.

Call for PhD Applications: Social Media and Public Communication

We’re now looking for the second PhD student associated with my current ARC Future Fellowship project. The PhD student will receive an annual stipend of A$25,849 over the three years of the PhD project. If you’re interested in and qualified for the PhD project, please contact me by 1 May 2015, directly at with your CV, names of two referees, and a detailed statement addressing the Eligibility Requirements below. We’ll select the candidate on this basis, and will then ask you to formally apply for the PhD place through the QUT Website.

Full details are below – please pay particularly close attention to the Eligibility Requirements.

The Project

We are seeking a highly motivated candidate to participate in an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship project which draws on several ‘big data’ sources on Australian online public communication.

This PhD project provides an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the flow of information across the Australian online public sphere at large scale and in close to real time, within a world-class research environment. With an ERA ranking of 5 (well above world standing), Creative Industries at QUT is the leading institution for Media and Communication research in Australia, and ARC Future Fellow Professor Axel Bruns is an international research leader in the area of Internet studies.

Towards a New Communism to Fix the World

The second plenary speaker at ECREA 2014 today is Christian Fuchs, who takes us back to Hegel and Marx. He introduces Hegel's relational concept of the world, where everything exists only in relationship with other things, and through this relationship development becomes possible. Marx built on this by examining the interrelationships between societal forces, and used it to explore the internal contradictions of capitalism.

Modern technologies, for example, become tools for improving life, but also for the further domination of workers. The rate of surplus value, and the organic composition of the production process (the technological intensity of production) have both been rising consistently, while wage share has decreased substantially over time as capital share has risen. Further, corporate taxation is virtually inexistent in Western countries.

From Media Logic to a Logic of the Public

The final plenary on this somewhat eccentrically scheduled Saturday at ECREA 2014 begins with Kees Brants, who says his intention today is to debunk himself. There is a dominant discourse of mediatisation at present, and politicians have to respond to this – we may therefore be seeing a shift from a political to a media logic, as Kees has suggested in previous work. But is that perspective correct, or may it be challenged?

Historically, the concept of media logic emerged in 1979, twenty years later, mediatisation emerged properly as a concept. However, mediatisation must necessarily precede media logic: the increased shaping and domination of society by the media makes only possible the emergence of media logics. Witho mediatisation, we would not see European football competitions, Ebola panics, or the global response to the downing of MH17.

Models for Facilitating Social Engagement through Online Media

The final speaker in this ECREA 2014 session is Nico Carpentier, whose interest is in how civil society uses online media to facilitate social engagement. This addresses the problems with much current debate, which is either outright utopian or speaks forever in potentialities. A solution to this is to focus on a discourse based on the diversity of possible models.

Online media, civil society, and social engagement are the defining concepts for this inquiry. The project began with a conceptual map, identified good practices in international and Belgian civil society organisations, and engaged with Belgian CSOs to gather what they thought was good practice. This resulted in some 176 possible concepts.

Political Action in Non-Political Online Fora

The next speakers at ECREA 2014 are Daniel Jackson and Todd Graham, who are interested in the use of online third spaces for political action. This is especially important at a time of austerity which tends to let citizens fend for themselves rather than providing government support. To what extent does political talk in these spaces lead to political action, then?

The study looked at the discussion fora of Money Saving Expert, Digital Spy, and Netmums to explore the presence of political talk in these otherwise non-political spaces and identify the presence of commitments or calls to further political action.

Commenting on UK News Organisations' Facebook Pages

The next speaker at ECREA 2014 is Iñaki Garcia-Blanco, whose focus is on discussing the news on social media, and specifically on Facebook. This is important given the perceived crisis of democracy, which requires greater levels of deliberation. Social media bring together access to the news and facilities for discussing it, and Facebook is increasingly important in this.

The research examined the news stories published by leading UK news sources on their official Facebook pages over the course of a single working week (some 1650 articles in total). Human interest and lifestyle stories were strongest in numbers, while commenting on international politics was disproportionately strong.

Patterns of News Sharing across Europe

The next panel on this marathon day at ECREA 2014 starts with Sascha Hölig, whose interest is in patterns of online political engagement in Europe. Democracy depends on structures that enable finding information, exchanging opinions, and negotiating decisions; the news is one key source of such information.

The Reuters Digital News Survey studies news consumption patterns across 10 European nations, drawing on surveys with some 19,000 users. There is a high interest in news, and frequent access to news, across Europe; more than 80% of users access the news at least once a day, especially from television.


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