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Social Media Network Mapping

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.

Mapping Online Publics: New Methods for Twitter Research (Twitter Analytics Workshop 2014)

Twitter Analytics Workshop 2014

Mapping Online Publics: New Methods for Twitter Research

Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, and Darryl Woodford

  • 12 June 2014 – Twitter Workshop: Analysing Network Data, Göttingen

The study of Twitter at large scale and in close to real time requires the development of new methodological approaches which are able to process, analyse, and visualise the ‘big social data’ which can be accessed through the Twitter API. The Mapping Online Publics project in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) at Queensland University of Technology has developed a number of approaches to the study of short- and long-term Twitter publics, from analyses of the dynamics of ad hoc issue publics around natural disasters and political crises through the tracking of information flows and audience interests across mainstream and social media to the comprehensive mapping of the Australian Twittersphere. This presentation will outline the methodological approaches developed for this work, and reflect on the opportunities and challenges facing social media researchers.

 

Axel Bruns is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Associate Professor in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. He leads the QUT Social Media Research Group and is the author of Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage (2008) and Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production (2005), and a co-editor of Twitter and Society (2014), A Companion to New Media Dynamics (2012) and Uses of Blogs (2006). His current work focusses on the study of user participation in social media spaces such as Twitter, especially in the context of acute events. His research blog is at http://snurb.info/, and he tweets at @snurb_dot_info. See http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ for more details on his research into social media.

Jean Burgess is Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation (CCI) and Associate Professor, Digital Media in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology. She is involved in several research projects that apply computer-assisted methods to the analysis of large-scale social media data. Her books include YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture (Polity Press, 2009), Studying Mobile Media: Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication, and the iPhone (Routledge, 2012) and A Companion to New Media Dynamics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013). Over the past decade she has worked with a large number of government, industry and community-based organisations, focusing on the uses of social and co-creative media to increase participation, advocacy and engagement.

Darryl Woodford is a Research Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation (CCI) at Queensland University of Technology. He has a background in Engineering and Game Studies, including research on the agency of avatars in virtual environments. His current research includes work on social norms and regulation in the video game and gambling industries, and he is leading the development of new digital methods for measuring and evaluating television audience engagement using social media analytics.

Television Co-Creation with Social Media Users: #7DaysLater

The next speaker in our AoIR 2015 panel is Jonathon Hutchinson, who zooms in to a specific transmedia programme screened by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, #7DaysLater. The premise of the show is to create comedy programming within seven days, and to incorporate social media engagement practices into the show.

Such viewing is more than just subsequent watercooler discussions – it's about viewer co-creation practices. The challenge is to break through the noise barrier on social media, and to find the techniques for encouraging audience participation, especially in the context of a public service broadcaster.

Using Social Network Analysis to Explore the Dynamics of Online Publics

The next speaker at AoIR 2015 is Mathieu O'Neil, whose focus is on the use of social network analysis in exploring online publics. Social network analysis treats the diffusion of information online as a form of contagion. It draws distinctions between leaders and followers in the social network, and the network properties of these accounts affect how information is disseminated across the network; there are certain threshold levels for information diffusion and the emergence of information cascades.

What different categories of actors exist in social networks, then? What is the impact of social status or structural positions, and what cultural dynamics may apply? One way to approach such questions is through the concept of fields, which have their own structural features and dynamics; indeed, the recent concept of the strategic action field suggests that collective actors are attuned to and interact with each other based on their shared understandings of the field itself.

Coming Up Shortly

The annual end-of-year conference season is upon us again, and I’ll be heading off tomorrow to the annual Association of Internet Researchers conference – the most important conference in my field. In spite of the considerable troubles AoIR has faced this year – its first conference location, Bangkok, was no longer feasible following the military coup in Thailand, and there still seem to be some teething problems with the replacement location in Daegu, Korea – it will be great to catch up with leading colleagues in the field again.

This year, we’re presenting the first outcomes of our latest big data studies of the Australian and global Twitterspheres. One major paper will present what we’ve been able to glean so far of the overall patterns within the global Twitter userbase – we now have data on some 870 million Twitter profiles, which provides us with a unique perspective on how Twitter has grown and diversified as a platform. Further, we’ve also got a brand-new map of follower/followee  networks in the Australian Twittersphere, based on our dataset of some 2.8 million Australian users, and we’re using this to explore the footprint of recent television programming to shed new light on second-screen viewing practices, as part of our Telemetrics project (more on this at Darryl Woodford’s site). I’ll be live-blogging the conference again if I can get online, so expect to see much more over the next few days. As a preview, my slides for the two presentations are below.

Mapping the Twittersphere for the EU Election

The final speaker in the ASMC14 session is Axel Maireder, whose focus is on the structure of the Twittersphere surrounding the recent European Union election. His approach is to examine the follower networks of participants in relevant discussions, and to explore which factors explain their structural patterns – such as shared national and language identity, political ideology, or other factors.

The study captured all tweets containing keywords such as European Parliament, European Election, and relevant hashtags (in the various European languages), and gathered tweets from some 440,000 users in total. Filtering these to users with at least two tweets and at least 250 followers resulted in some 11,000 core users who were retained for the network analysis.

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.

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