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New Methodologies for Researching News Discussion on Twitter


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Paper presented at the Future of Journalism conference, Cardiff, 8 Sep. 2011.

Paper presented at the Future of Journalism conference, Cardiff, 8 Sep. 2011.

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  • 1. New Methodologies for Researching News Discussion 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. Why Twitter?
    Researching news discussion on Twitter:
    Significant world-wide social network
    ~200 million users (but how many active?)
    Varied range of uses: from phatic communication to emergency coordination
    Flat and open network structure: non-reciprocal following, public profiles by default
    Commonly used in the coverage and discussion of breaking news events and ongoing stories
    Good API for data journalism
  • 3. Twitter and the News
    Key news-related uses of Twitter:
    First-hand news reports:
    Emergency landing in the Hudson; Abbottabad raid; storms, earthquakes, tsunamis
    Continuing news discussion:
    Information sharing (gatewatching); commentary; story curation through hashtags
    ‘Ambient’ news coverage (Hermida; Burns):
    Early indicator of breaking stories; trending topics, themes, URLs, etc.
     Tool for sourcing, tracking, finding stories
  • 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. #hashtags in Context?
    Follower/followee network:~150,000 Australian Twitter users(of ~550,000 known accounts so far) colour = outdegree, size = indegree
  • 17. Data Journalism (Research) beyond Twitter
    Data journalism is a growing field
    Data journalism research necessary to inform both journalism theory and practice
    Twitter is a key news space now, and needs to be further researched
    Other social media may come to replace it, but many methods will remain similar
    Potential to generate new insights well beyond journalism itself: popular sentiment and interests, communication, culture, …
    Many tools available, but more methods work necessary!
  • 18.