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Mapping Online Publics on Twitter


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Keynote presented by Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess at the Düsseldorf Workshop on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Twitter Analysis, 14 Sep. 2011.

Keynote presented by Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess at the Düsseldorf Workshop on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Twitter Analysis, 14 Sep. 2011.

Published in: Education, Technology, Business

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  • 1. Mapping Online Publics on Twitter
    Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess
    ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
    Queensland University of Technology
    Brisbane, Australia
    a.bruns /
    @snurb_dot_info / @jeanburgess
  • 2. Social Media Research in the CCI
    ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation (national, based at QUT)
    Project: Media Ecologies & Methodological Innovation
    With Journalism & Media Research Centre (JMRC) @ UNSW
    Aims to implement new methods to understand the changing media environment;
    Focusing on the relationship between social media and traditional media and communication platforms;
    Combining large-scale computer-assisted techniques with qualitative social research and close textual analysis
    Focus on Crisis Communication
    Natural disasters
    Other ‘acute events’
  • 3. New Media and Public Communication: Mapping Australian User-Created Content in Online Social Networks
    Bruns, Burgess, Kirchhoff & Nicolai
    Australian Research Council (ARC): Discovery Project (2010-13) – $410,000
    QUT (Brisbane), Sociomantic Labs (Berlin)
    First comprehensive study of Australian social media use.
    Computer-assisted cultural analysis: tracking, mapping, analysing blogs, twitter, flickr, youtube as ‘networked publics’
    Builds on previous work of the research team (UCC, YouTube, blogosphere mapping)
    Advances beyond established approaches - beyond political blogospheres, beyond snapshots
    Addressing the problem of scale (‘Big Data’) and disciplinary change in media, cultural and communication studies.
  • 4. #hashtags on Twitter
    Hashtag =‘#’ + alphanumeric characters:
    Automatic tracking & aggregation of a topic, represented with a hyperlink
    Originally a (lead) user innovation, later integrated into platform
    Simple, adaptive and generative
    Can coordinate, render visible, and constitute publics
  • 5. #hashtag Publics
    Attend to matters of shared concern with some level of co-awareness
    Varied in intensity and temporality
    Emergent, constituted via discourse & affect
    #hashtag publics:
    Not all hashtags constitute publics; Twitter doesn’t ‘contain’ publics
    What are the various patterns in the dynamics of different hashtag-based publics?
    What might account for these differences?
  • 6. Data Gathering
    yourTwapperkeeper: API-based data capture
    Data Processing
    Gawk – open source, multiplatform, programmable command-line tool for processing CSV documents
    Textual Analysis
    Leximancer – commercial (University of Queensland), multiplatform: extracts key concepts from large corpora of text, examines and visualises concept co-occurrence
    WordStat – commercial, PC-only text analysis tool; generates concept co-occurrence data that can be exported for visualisation
    Gephi – open source, multiplatform network visualisation tool
    Tools for Researching Twitter
  • 7. #ausvotes (July-Aug. 2010)
  • 8. #royalwedding (29 Apr. 2011)
  • 9. #eqnz (Feb./Mar. 2011)
  • 10. #qldfloods: @QPSmedia (Jan. 2011)
  • 11. #ausvotes: Leaders
  • 12. #ausvotes: Themes
  • 13. #spill (23 June 2010)
  • 14. #GoBackSBS (June/July 2011)
  • 15. Comparative Metrics
  • 16. Towards a Typology of Twitter Uses
    How are hashtags used (during acute events)?
    Finding and sharing information about breaking news (before the mainstream media do?)
    Ad hoc publics: many URLs, many retweets (even unedited)
    Shared experience of major (foreseen) events
    Imagined community of fellow participants: few URLs, limited retweeting
    What other uses are there?
    Continuing discussions (#auspol, #bundesliga, …)
    Memes (#ghettohurricanenames, …)
    Emotive hashtags (#fail, #win, #headdesk, …)
    What about keywords?
  • 17. Beyond Hashtags
    Publics on Twitter:
    Micro: @reply and retweet conversations
    Meso: hashtag ‘communities’
    Macro: follower/followee networks
     Multiple overlapping publics / networks
    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
  • 18. Understanding Australian Twitter Use
    What is the Australian Twitteruserbase?
    Large-scale snowballing project
    Starting from selected hashtag communities (e.g. #ausvotes, #qldfloods, #masterchef)
    Identifying participating users, testing for ‘Australianness’:
    Timezone setting, location information, profile information
    Retrieving follower/followee information for each account (very slow)
    Progress update:
    ~550,000 Australian users identified so far
  • 19. The Australian Twittersphere
    Follower/followee network:~150,000 Australian Twitter users(of ~550,000 known accounts so far) colour = outdegree, size = indegree
  • 20. The Australian Twittersphere
  • 21.