Mapping Online Publics: Understanding How Australians Use Social Media


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Paper presented at the National Public Sector Digital Media Officers Forum, Melbourne, 21 June 2011.

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Mapping Online Publics: Understanding How Australians Use Social Media

  1. 1. Mapping Online Publics: Understanding How Australians Use Social Media <ul><li>Assoc. Prof. Axel Bruns ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] / @snurb_dot_info </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>Image by campoalto
  2. 2. Social Media in Australia <ul><li>Significant usage: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facebook , Twitter , blogs – and many others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social media as part of everyday media use – complementing mainstream media </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Notable differences: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. Facebook : built around personal networks; semi-private; discussion threads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. Twitter : open, flat network; public #hashtag conversations; update stream </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Ambient’ uses ( Hermida 2010 ): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Always on in the background – substantial role during major events </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rapid, ad hoc development of new conventions as required </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Issues and challenges: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Significant user influx and churn – very fluid field </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Proprietary platforms – precarious environment for users and researchers </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Twitter and Beyond <ul><li>#hashtag studies: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Selected #hashtags captured from the Twitter API using yourTwapperkeeper </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Data processing using custom-made tools – keyword and network analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Statistic and network visualisations – including dynamic visualisations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Broader research: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>#hashtags are limited – much additional activity outside #hashtags </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But how much – need to establish reliable baseline figures on social media usage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do #hashtags emerge, how do users encounter and choose them? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How much does Twitter use during crises differ from everyday usage? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mapping Online Publics: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ARC Discovery project, 2010-12: Assoc. Prof. Axel Bruns and Dr. Jean Burgess, QUT </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Methodology and outcomes: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Further projects on social media and crisis communication under development </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Twitter and the Queensland Floods: #qldfloods tweets <ul><li>10 June 2011 11 June 2011 12 June 2011 13 June 2011 14 June 2011 15 June 2011 </li></ul>
  5. 5. Local Focus: #qldfloods from Toowoomba to Brisbane <ul><li>Toowoomba vs. Lockyer/Grantham vs. Ipswich vs. Brisbane slide </li></ul>10 June 2011 11 June 2011 12 June 2011 13 June 2011 14 June 2011 15 June 2011
  6. 6. Twitter and the Queensland Floods: #qldfloods posters retweet feeds mainstream media Qld Police
  7. 7. Twitter and the Queensland Floods: #qldfloods @replies mainstream media authorities
  8. 8. Twitter and the Christchurch Earthquake: #eqnz @replies mainstream media authorities utilities
  9. 9. Key Accounts over Time
  10. 10. @QPSmedia as Central #qldfloods Information Source
  11. 11. #qldfloods Network Map – Most Active Accounts Only (Degree >= 15 / Node size: indegree / node colour: outdegree)
  12. 12. Twitter and the Queensland Floods <ul><li>First lessons: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>#qldfloods as coordinating tool – one central hashtag </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Go where the users are – and help establish hashtag </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Plus inventive additions – e.g. @QPSmedia #Mythbuster tweets </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most activity by individuals – but key official accounts cut through </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Enable easy retweeting and sharing of messages </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Respond and engage – value voluntary contributions from ‘average’ users </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mainstream media are important in social media environments, too </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Twitter as an amplifier of key messages </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Twitter vs. Facebook – which works when? </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Twitter Events in Perspective: Comparing the Main 24h
  14. 14. Beyond Crises <ul><li>Where to from here? Further applications: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identifying overall Twitter participation patterns – key themes, key users </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How does information travel across the Twittersphere? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How can we ensure and enhance the distribution of important messages? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What is the structure of the Twitter community? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mapping online publics: network structure, clusters, interconnections, themes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identifying key participants: opinion leaders, information hubs, connectors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Change over time: fluidity of network structures, response to stimuli </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How does Twitter sit in the wider media ecology? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use of materials from elsewhere: distribution of attention through links </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interconnections between Twitter and other media: tweets about TV, newspapers, ... </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>@snurb_dot_info </li></ul><ul><li>@jeanburgess </li></ul>Image by campoalto