Mapping Online Publics: Understanding the Role of Twitter in Public Communication
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Mapping Online Publics: Understanding the Role of Twitter in Public Communication

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Paper presented at the first NCRM Digital Methods as Mainstream Methodology workshop, University of the West of England, Bristol, 9 July 2012.

Paper presented at the first NCRM Digital Methods as Mainstream Methodology workshop, University of the West of England, Bristol, 9 July 2012.

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Mapping Online Publics: Understanding the Role of Twitter in Public Communication Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Mapping Online Publics:Understanding the Role of Twitterin Public CommunicationAssoc. Prof. Axel BrunsARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and InnovationQueensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australiaa.bruns@qut.edu.au – http://snurb.info/ – @snurb_dot_infohttp://mappingonlinepublics.net/ http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 2. Why Twitter?o Researching Twitter: o Significant world-wide social network o ~200 million users (but how many active?) o Varied range of uses: from phatic communication to emergency coordination o Healthy third-party ecosystem (for now) o Strong history of user innovation: @replies, #hashtags o Flat and open network structure: non-reciprocal following, public profiles by default o Good API for gathering data for research http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 3. New Media and Public Communication: Mapping Australian User-Created Content in Online Social Networkso Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project (2010-13) – $410,000 o QUT (Brisbane), Sociomantic Labs (Berlin) o First comprehensive study of Australian social media use o Computer-assisted cultural analysis: tracking, mapping, analysing blogs, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube as ‘networked publics’ o Addressing the problem of scale (‘Big Data’) and disciplinary change in media, cultural and communication studies – natively digital methods o Studying society with the Internet (Richard Rogers)  http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 4. #hashtag Publicso #hashtags o ‘#’ + keyword makes tweets easily discoverable and marks themes o E.g. #ausvotes, #qldfloods, #londonriots, #royalwedding, #euro2012, …o Publics o Attend to matters of shared concern with some level of co-awareness o Varied in intensity and temporality o Emergent, constituted via discourse & affecto #hashtag publics o Not all hashtags constitute publics; Twitter doesn’t ‘contain’ publics o What are the patterns in the dynamics of different hashtag-based publics? o What might account for these differences? http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 5. Toolso Data Gathering o yourTwapperkeeper + in-house crawlero Data Processing o Gawk – open source, multiplatform, programmable command-line tool for processing CSV documentso Textual Analysis o Leximancer – commercial, multiplatform: extracts key concepts from large corpora of text, examines and visualises concept co-occurrence o WordStat – commercial, PC-only text analysis tool; generates concept co-occurrence data that can be exported for visualisationo Visualisation o Gephi – open source, multiplatform network visualisation tool http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 6. But Why?o Possible research questions: o Ad hoc events and publics: o How do online publics form and dissolve? How do they interact, what structures do they form? o Where do they draw information from? What do they share? o Do they simply consist of the usual suspects? How insular and disconnected are online publics? o Hashtags in context: o How do different hashtag events compare? Are there common types of hashtags/publics? o How ‘big’ are they? What topics attract attention on Twitter? o What community (?) structures emerge? http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 7. #qldfloods @replies authorities mainstream media
  • 8. #ausvotes: Leaders http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 9. #royalwedding
  • 10. Hashtag Publics, Hashtag Metricso How big is the central core of users? o Long tail distribution: most active users responsible for the majority of content o 90/9/1 rule: how much does the top 1% of users contribute? o #royalwedding: ~10% of all tweets o #qldfloods: ~17% of all tweets o #auspol: ~65% of all tweetso What do they do: inform, share, chat? o How many links do they share? o How much retweeting do they do (edited/unedited)? o How many @replies do they send / receive? o … etc. http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 11. Towards Comparative Metrics http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 12. Towards a Typology of Twitter Useso How are hashtags used (during acute events)? o Gatewatching: o Finding and sharing information about breaking news (before the mainstream media do?) o Ad hoc publics: many URLs, many retweets (even unedited) o Audiencing: o Shared experience of major (foreseen) events o Imagined community of fellow participants: few URLs, limited retweetingo What other uses are there? o Continuing discussions (#auspol, #bundesliga, …) o Memes (#ghettohurricanenames, …) o Emotive hashtags (#fail, #win, #headdesk, …) o What about keywords? http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 13. Beyond Hashtagso Publics on Twitter: o Micro: @reply and retweet conversations o Meso: hashtag ‘communities’ o Macro: follower/followee networks Multiple overlapping publics / networkso What drives their formation and dissipation?o How do they interact and interweave?o How are they interleaved with the wider media ecology?o Twitter doesn’t contain publics: publics transcend Twitter http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 14. Twitter and/in the Media Ecology
  • 15. Twitter and/in the Media Ecology http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 16. Understanding Australian Twitter Useo What is the Australian Twitter userbase? o Large-scale snowballing project o Starting from selected hashtag communities (e.g. #ausvotes, #qldfloods, #masterchef) o Identifying participating users, testing for ‘Australianness’: o Timezone setting, location information, profile information o Retrieving follower/followee information for each account (very slow)o Progress update: o ~950,000 Australian users identified so far, ~21m connections  ~2 million Australian users in total? http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 17. The Australian Twittersphere? Follower/followee network: ~150,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~550,000 known accounts by mid-2011) colour = outdegree, size = indegree http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 18. The Australian Twittersphere? Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = outdegree, size = indegree
  • 19. Real Estate Jobs Property HR Business Parenting Thematic Clusters Design Business Property Mums Craft Arts Web Social Media Creative Tech Food Perth PR Wine Marketing / PR Advertising IT Beer Tech Creative Social Design ICTs NGOs Fashion Utilities Farming Social Policy Beauty Services Agriculture Net Culture Adelaide Opinion Books Theatre Greens News Literature Film Arts Publishing ALP Hardline Progressives News @KRuddMPConservatives @JuliaGillard Radio Conservatives TV Music Journalists Triple J Talkback Dance Breakfast TV Hip Hop Cycling Celebrities Union Evangelicals Swimming NRL V8s Football Teens Christians Cricket Teaching Hillsong AFL e-Learning Schools Jonas Bros. Beliebers
  • 20. #auspol Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = #auspol tweets, size = indegree
  • 21. #ausvotes Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = #ausvotes tweets, size = indegree
  • 22. #royalwedding Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = #royalwedding tweets, size = indeg.
  • 23. abc.net.au URLs Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = tweets with URLs, size = indegree
  • 24. Understanding Twitter Publicso #hashtags: o Useful coordinating mechanism for core discussion o Relatively easy to capture and analyse o Fails to capture non-hashtagged tweets about the topic o Good case studies, but very little comparative work to dateo National / global Twittersphere maps o Crucial contextual baseline for #hashtag case studies o Slow and laborious data gathering process, never complete o Very long-term perspective, beyond most funded projects o Indispensable for study of Twitter as a public space http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 25. ‘Big Data’ and the Digital Humanitieso Emerging needs in Twitter research: o Unified, compatible methods and metrics for Twitter analysis  Tools and approaches shared at http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ o Powerful infrastructure for long-term, high-volume tracking of Australian public communication on Twitter  Data access requires substantial funding stream o Facilities for long-term data storage and preservation  Key roles for National Library, National Archives o Integration with related datasets (e.g. MSM content)  Need to address data interoperability questionso Twitter as a test case for digital humanities research o Widespread, open, public platform for everyday communication o Tool for observing society at scale through Internet research http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 26. http://mappingonlinepublics.net/@snurb_dot_info@jeanburgess@_StephenH@DrTNitins@timhighfield@cdtavijit http://mappingonlinepublics.net/