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Activist Facebook Pages as a Fifth Estate in Finland

The next ECREA 2014 speaker is Niina Niskala, whose interest is in Finnish uses of Facebook. Are there communicative power groups that can be seen as examples of social and political movements or even as a 'fifth estate': a network of online individuals able to collaborate to an extent that it challenges the other estates and creates real-world power shifts?

The project gathered data from those of the most popular Finnish Facebook pages that support specific causes or missions or engage in political protest or support. These were analysed for a number of key attributes, and later analysis focussed on the six largest and six smallest of the groups.

Patterns of Discussion on Twitter around the German NSA Surveillance Scandal

Next up at ECREA 2014 is Sanja Kapidzic, whose interest is in how the NSA scandal was communicated in Germany via Twitter. The public sphere is seen here as having a triadic structure, between journalists, official spokespeople, and citizens. Traditionally, this has been dominated by the mass media, but shifts toward online communication have changed this balance; direct bidirectional communication is now possible between all three points of the triad.

This is especially notable in social media environments such as Twitter; however, new hierarchies and elites may also emerge here. What are the new structures of influence in this context, then?

Twitter-Based Interactions between Norwegian Journalists and Politicians

The next ECREA 2014 speaker is my Norwegian project partner Eli Skogerbø, whose interest is in the connections between journalists and politicians on Twitter. How do journalists connect with politicians on Twitter; how do politicians respond to being approached on Twitter?

The project focussed especially on the timeframe around the 2013 Norwegian election. During this time, journalists' activities varied widely; one political journalist was very highly active (producing some 9,000 tweets over the course of one year), while the average level of Twitter activity across journalists was a great deal lower.

Reconsidering New Media's Capacity for Empowerment

The second ECREA 2014 plenary speaker this morning is Tristan Mattelart, whose interest is in the transnationalisation of the news. He begins by noting the ambivalent nature of the notion of empowerment, which has been used in the past by disenfranchised groups to raise the social conscience in order to gain more power; but more recently it has been adopted by neoliberal groups, for whom it now simply means increasing the productivity of marginalised people.

Such changes can be seen in the characterisation of Web 2.0, which has also been described – by authors like Howard Rheingold – as an empowering technology. But to find examples of such notions, we could go back further, to a time when international radio broadcasts – for example into Eastern bloc countries – were seen as empowering local populations; ideology was one of the main pillars of authoritarian regimes, but it rested on very unstable foundations. Dissidents sought to establish independent spaces that allowed them to live within the truth, and international radio broadcasts contributed to the development of such spaces; they were the means to construct such spaces and to disseminate dissident information.

Recovering the Political Commons

Well, it's mid-November, so this must be Lisbon. I'm at the European Communication Conference (ECREA), which starts today with a double plenary session, followed by our QUT Social Media Research Group paper presenting the latest version of our map of the Australian Twittersphere (now based on 2.8 million known accounts).

But before we get to this, the first plenary speaker is Natalie Fenton. She begins by noting the need for scholarly work to have a tangible impact beyond the academy, especially in the current climate of austerity; how can we live decent academic lives that contribute to the flourishing of humanity, that enable a good political life? If Thomas Piketty's analysis of contemporary capitalism is correct, and wealth is increasingly concentrated amongst a small and shrinking elite, how do we address that astounding, damaging inequality?

The Emergence of Trending Topics: The Dissemination of Breaking Stories on Twitter (ASMC 2014)

Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space (ASMC 2014)

The Emergence of Trending Topics: The Dissemination of Breaking Stories on Twitter

Axel Bruns and Theresa Sauter

Twitter is widely recognised as a key medium for the dissemination of breaking news. Bruns & Burgess (2011) describe how ad hoc publics form, especially around shared hashtags, as events and issues become more widely recognised, and Hermida (2010) and Burns (2010) both describe this as Twitter’s “ambient news” function – always in the background, until trending stories push it into the foreground. What is less understood are the early moments of such ‘trending’, before hashtags and other mechanisms define a new story as breaking news. This paper explores these early processes: by tracking the dissemination of links to Australian news sites on an everyday basis as part of the ATNIX project (Bruns et al., 2013), we were able to trace the shift from sharing to trending from the very first links being shared on Twitter to the subsequent widespread dissemination of trending topics. We use innovative visualisation techniques to show the dynamics of this transition and to map the networks of interaction which emerge onto the overall Australian Twittersphere.

All Politics Is Local? The Twitter Performance of Local Candidates in the 2013 Australian Federal Election (ASMC 2014)

Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space (ASMC 2014)

All Politics Is Local? The Twitter Performance of Local Candidates in the 2013 Australian Federal Election

Axel Bruns

The phrase “all politics is local” is especially appropriate in the Australian federal electoral context, where all 150 Members of Parliament are elected on the basis of their success in the electoral contests in their local electorates and no adjustments are made to account for their parties' nationwide vote shares. Media coverage, however, tends to focus squarely on the national party leaders, with local contests receiving media attention only in exceptional circumstances. This paper examines the extent to which social media are able to address this gap. During the 2013 Australian federal election, we tracked activity around the Twitter accounts of some 350 MPs and candidates; here, we examine the extent to which candidates and voters use this medium to supplement insufficient local media coverage.

From Worker-Generated Content in China to Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

The AoIR 2015 keynote today is by Jack Linchuan Qiu, whose begins by highlighting the contributions Asian communication and Internet researchers and practitioners have made to their fields, from very early research publications to Korea. citizen journalism site OhmyNews, Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, and most recently the incomplete "umbrella revolution" in Hong Kong.

But Asia is also the industrial base of the global digital revolution, and in this it remains part of the global south. Here, classic 19th century-style industrial struggles take place using 21st-century communication technologies. The problems around Apple iPhone manufacturer Foxconn represent just the tip of the iceberg for these kinds of struggles.

To illustrate this, Jack discusses the picture of a handwritten protest poem which was posted to a tree in the manufacturing town Dongguan, and was shared virally using social media. Transmitted through social media, this is an expression of digital activism, similar to so many other campaigns around the world. But in Asia it also has a special meaning, as it represents workers armed with smart phones challenging the Chinese social and industrial model. The recent tidal wave of social media use amongst Chinese workers is just as important to study as the Arab Spring uprisings.

State Surveillance as Incodification

The next speakers at AoIR 2015 are Jessa Lingel and Aram Sinnreich, whose interest is in the resistance of incarcerated populations to surveillance processes. How does protest against surveillance work for prisoners?

Jessa begins by highlighting the Foucauldian idea of askesis: a deliberative exercise of the self which also helps shape the norms of community around the practitioner. The way one person does things can thus shape the practices of those around them, and this applies to prison populations as well – hunger strikes are an obvious example of this, and they are especially effective here as state authorities are in charge of providing food.

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