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Layers of Communication:
Forms of Talk on Twitter
Associate Professor Axel Bruns
ARC Future Fellow
Queensland University o...
WHY TWITTER?
• Researching Twitter:
– Significant world-wide social network
– ~700 million accounts (but how many active?)...
TWITTER AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE(S)
• New methodologies:
– Empirical, large-scale, real-time investigation: ‘big (social) dat...
TWITTER AND SOCIETY
• Twitter and Society
(New York: Peter Lang, 2014)
– Jan Schmidt: Twitter followers as the
personal pu...
LAYERS OF TALK ON TWITTER
• Key needs in Twitter research:
– Understand how hashtags are situated in a wider communicative...
MACRO: #ROYALWEDDING (29 APR. 2011)
MESO: FOLLOWER NETWORKS
Perth
Marketing / PR
Design
Web
Creative
Farming
Agriculture
Hardline
Conservatives
Conservatives
...
MICRO: @MENTIONS (2013 ELECTION)
INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN THE LAYERS
• Micro + Meso + Macro:
– Layers of communication do not exist in isolation
– Information...
#AUSPOL
Follower/followee network:
~120,000 Australian Twitter users
(of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012)
colour = #...
#ROYALWEDDING
Follower/followee network:
~120,000 Australian Twitter users
(of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012)
colo...
7.5 mins. elapsed
@abcnews
DISSEMINATION OF THE JULIA GILLARD ‘MISOGYNY SPEECH’ VIDEO, 9 OCT. 2012
30 mins. elapsed
Journalists
DISSEMINATION OF THE JULIA GILLARD ‘MISOGYNY SPEECH’ VIDEO, 9 OCT. 2012
1 hour elapsed
Feminists
DISSEMINATION OF THE JULIA GILLARD ‘MISOGYNY SPEECH’ VIDEO, 9 OCT. 2012
5 hours elapsed
DISSEMINATION OF THE JULIA GILLARD ‘MISOGYNY SPEECH’ VIDEO, 9 OCT. 2012
RESEARCH ON TALK IN TWITTER PUBLICS
• #hashtags (macro):
– Useful coordinating mechanism for discussion around key events
...
NONE OF THIS IS NEW (BUT…)
• Beyond ‘the’ public sphere:
– Need to revisit and refashion existing theories for a post-mass...
http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
@snurb_dot_info
@jeanburgess
@timhighfield
@dpwoodford
@tsadkowsky
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Layers of Communication: Forms of Talk on Twitter

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Paper presented at the Media Talk Symposium, Brisbane, 24 Apr. 2014.

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Transcript of "Layers of Communication: Forms of Talk on Twitter"

  1. 1. Layers of Communication: Forms of Talk on Twitter Associate Professor Axel Bruns ARC Future Fellow Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia @snurb_dot_info | http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  2. 2. WHY TWITTER? • Researching Twitter: – Significant world-wide social network – ~700 million accounts (but how many active?) • Australia: 2.5 to 3 million accounts (Twitter, Inc. claims 4 million) – Varied range of uses: from phatic communication to emergency coordination – Strong history of user innovation: @replies, #hashtags – Flat and open network structure: non-reciprocal following, public profiles by default – Good API for gathering (big) data for research – Ethical concerns comparatively limited
  3. 3. TWITTER AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE(S) • New methodologies: – Empirical, large-scale, real-time investigation: ‘big (social) data’ – Data-led, comprehensive evaluation rather than small-scale sampling of public communication – But also: combined quantitative/qualitative approaches – Not studying the Internet, but studying society with the Internet (Richard Rogers) • New(ish) frameworks: – Public spherules, issue publics, personal publics (Jan Schmidt): multiple interlinked spaces in a complex media ecology
  4. 4. TWITTER AND SOCIETY • Twitter and Society (New York: Peter Lang, 2014) – Jan Schmidt: Twitter followers as the personal public around each account – Axel Bruns and Hallvard Moe: three layers of communication on Twitter – Alex Halavais: structural evolution of Twitter as a platform for communication
  5. 5. LAYERS OF TALK ON TWITTER • Key needs in Twitter research: – Understand how hashtags are situated in a wider communicative ecology on Twitter – Document the day-to-day uses of Twitter, beyond and outside hashtags – Trace the dynamics of Twitter as a platform for everyday quasi-private, interpersonal, and/or public communication – Track the impact of social and technological changes on these uses • ad hoc publics, often rapidly forming and dissolving macro: #hashtags • personal publics, accumulating slowly and relatively stable meso: follower networks • interpersonal communication, ephemeral micro: @replies (Bruns & Moe, 2014)
  6. 6. MACRO: #ROYALWEDDING (29 APR. 2011)
  7. 7. MESO: FOLLOWER NETWORKS Perth Marketing / PR Design Web Creative Farming Agriculture Hardline Conservatives Conservatives Journalists ALP Progressives Greens News Opinion News NGOs Social Policy IT Tech Social Media Tech PR Advertising Real Estate Property Jobs HR Business Business Property Parenting Mums Craft Arts Food Wine Beer Adelaide Social ICTs Creative Design Fashion Beauty Utilities Services Net Culture Books Literature Publishing Film Theatre Arts Radio TV Music Dance Hip Hop Triple J Talkback Breakfast TV CelebritiesCycling Union NRL Football Cricket AFL Swimming V8s Evangelicals Teaching e-Learning Schools Christians Hillsong Teens Jonas Bros. Beliebers @KRuddMP @JuliaGillard Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = outdegree, size = indegree
  8. 8. MICRO: @MENTIONS (2013 ELECTION)
  9. 9. INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN THE LAYERS • Micro + Meso + Macro: – Layers of communication do not exist in isolation – Information is transitioned from one layer to another – Key mechanism: retweets • Retweeting an @mention: micro  meso • Retweeting a hashtagged tweet: macro  meso • Retweeting (just by itself): meso1  meso2 • Retweeting while adding a hashtag: meso  macro • Retweeting while adding an @mention: meso  micro – These create intersections between different publics: • Between personal publics and issue publics (vertical) • Between different users’ personal publics (horizontal)
  10. 10. #AUSPOL Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = #auspol tweets, size = indegree
  11. 11. #ROYALWEDDING Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = #royalwedding tweets, size = indeg.
  12. 12. 7.5 mins. elapsed @abcnews DISSEMINATION OF THE JULIA GILLARD ‘MISOGYNY SPEECH’ VIDEO, 9 OCT. 2012
  13. 13. 30 mins. elapsed Journalists DISSEMINATION OF THE JULIA GILLARD ‘MISOGYNY SPEECH’ VIDEO, 9 OCT. 2012
  14. 14. 1 hour elapsed Feminists DISSEMINATION OF THE JULIA GILLARD ‘MISOGYNY SPEECH’ VIDEO, 9 OCT. 2012
  15. 15. 5 hours elapsed DISSEMINATION OF THE JULIA GILLARD ‘MISOGYNY SPEECH’ VIDEO, 9 OCT. 2012
  16. 16. RESEARCH ON TALK IN TWITTER PUBLICS • #hashtags (macro): – Useful coordinating mechanism for discussion around key events – Relatively easy to capture and analyse – Fails to capture non-hashtagged tweets about the topic – Good case studies, but very little comparative work to date • @mentions (micro): – Backbone of everyday interpersonal communication on Twitter – Easy to track within a pre-defined population of accounts (e.g. politicians) – Studies on selected populations usually fail to examine everyday uses – Potential for significantly larger-scale studies yet to be realised • Follower/followee relations (meso): – Crucial contextual baseline for macro/micro-level studies – Slow and laborious data gathering process, never complete – Very long-term perspective, beyond the reach of most funded projects – But indispensable for study of Twitter as a public space
  17. 17. NONE OF THIS IS NEW (BUT…) • Beyond ‘the’ public sphere: – Need to revisit and refashion existing theories for a post-mass media media ecology – Multiple overlapping publics at different levels, driven by network logics • Publics on Twitter: – What drives their formation and dissipation? – How do they interact and interweave? – How are they interleaved with the wider media ecology? – Twitter doesn’t contain publics: publics transcend Twitter • Twitter and society: – To what extent does Twitter mirror broader communicative patterns? – Can we apply ‘big social data’ research methods beyond Twitter itself?
  18. 18. http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ @snurb_dot_info @jeanburgess @timhighfield @dpwoodford @tsadkowsky
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