Mapping Online Publics:Researching the Uses of Twitter Assoc. Prof. Axel Bruns ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia email@example.com – http://snurb.info/ – @snurb_dot_info http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
Why Twitter? Researching Twitter: Significant world-wide social network ~200 million users (but how many active?) Varied range of uses: from phatic communication to emergency coordination Healthy third-party ecosystem (for now) Strong history of user innovation: @replies, #hashtags Flat and open network structure: non-reciprocal following, public profiles by default Good API for gathering data for research
The 2011 Queensland Floods Chronology: December 2010 to January 2011: unprecedented rainfall Emergency declared for more than 50% of Queensland Wivenhoe dam reaches 180% capacity December 2010: Flooding in northern Queensland January 2011: Floods in southeast Queensland 10 January 2011: flash flooding in Toowoomba 10 January 2011: ‘inland tsunami’ in the Lockyer Valley 11 January 2011: flooding begins in Ipswich 12-16 January 2011: major flooding in Brisbane
Social Media during the Floods Various platforms: Facebook, Twitter – updates and information YouTube, Flickr, Twitpic – first-hand video and photos Google Maps, Ushahidi – map-based information mashups
Different tools for different purposes
Various levels of maturity: Uses and use practices still developing Different demographic reach Technological differences: e.g. Facebook: built around personal networks; semi-private; discussion threads e.g. Twitter: open, flat network; public #hashtag conversations; update stream
#qldfloods Tweets 10 Jan 2011 11 Jan 2011 12 Jan 2011 13 Jan 2011 14 Jan 2011 15 Jan 2011
10 Jan 2011 11 Jan 2011 12 Jan 2011 13 Jan 2011 14 Jan 2011 15 Jan 2011 #qldfloods from Toowoomba to Brisbane
#qldfloods @replies authorities mainstream media
@QPSmedia as Central #qldfloods Information Source
#qldfloods Network Map – Most Active Accounts Only(Degree >= 15 / Node size: indegree / node colour: outdegree)
The Queensland Floods Community Self-organisation: Rapid establishment of #qldfloodshashtag Ad hoc development of community structures Highlighting of leading accounts, vigilant against disruption Suspension of petty squabbles (e.g. state politics) Innovation and rapid prototyping: Adjunct hashtags (#Mythbuster, #bakedrelief) Sharing and gathering of online resources Additional tools (Google Maps, Ushahidi Maps) Emergency services rapidly adopting social media tools (despite lack of established strategies) ‘Go where they are’ rather than ‘build it and they will come’
New Media and Public Communication: Mapping Australian User-Created Contentin Online Social Networks 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, YouTubeas ‘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– natively digital methods
Data Gathering yourTwapperkeeper+ in-house crawler 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 Visualisation Gephi – open source, multiplatform network visualisation tool Tools
But Why? Possible research questions: Ad hoc events and publics: How do online publics form and dissolve? How do they interact, what structures do they form? Where do they draw information from? What do they share? Do they simply consist of the usual suspects? How insular and disconnected are online publics? Hashtags in context: How do different hashtag events compare? Are there common types of hashtags/publics? How ‘big’ are they? What topics attract attention on Twitter? What community (?) structures emerge?
Hashtag Publics, Hashtag Metrics How big is the central core of users? Long tail distribution: most active users responsible for the majority of content 90/9/1 rule: how much does the top 1% of users contribute? #royalwedding: ~10% of all tweets #qldfloods: ~17% of all tweets #libya: ~49% of all tweets What do they do: inform, share, chat? How many links to they share? How much retweeting do they do (edited/unedited)? How many @replies do they send / receive? … etc.
Distinguishing Apples and Oranges (top 1% most active users in each hashtag; size = percentage of total tweet volume) Top 1% most active users
Distinguishing Apples and Oranges All contributors
Towards a Typology of Twitter Uses How are hashtags used (during acute events)? Gatewatching: Finding and sharing information about breaking news (before the mainstream media do?) Ad hoc publics: many URLs, many retweets(even unedited) Audiencing: 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?
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
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
The Australian Twittersphere Follower/followee network:~150,000 Australian Twitter users(of ~550,000 known accounts so far) colour = outdegree, size = indegree