#Pontiff-Ex: The Twitter Community’s Reaction to the Papal Resignation

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Paper by Theresa Sauter and Axel Bruns, presented at the Association of Internet Researchers conference, Denver, 25 Oct. 2013.

Paper by Theresa Sauter and Axel Bruns, presented at the Association of Internet Researchers conference, Denver, 25 Oct. 2013.

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  • 1. #Pontiff-Ex: The Twitter Community’s Reaction to the Papal Resignation Dr. Theresa Sauter / Assoc. Prof. Axel Bruns ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australien t.sauter / a.bruns @ qut.edu.au @lena_sauter / @snurb_dot_info
  • 2. INTRODUCTION • Twitter: – Increasing Twitter, Inc. focus on celebrity accounts – Encouragement for „ordinary‟ users to become “listeners” (Kate Crawford) • e.g. Suggested User List during account creation – Global celebrities with follower numbers in the millions • The papal Twitter account: – @pontifex (and language variations) set up in December 2012 – Used by Benedict XVI, then archived and wiped following resignation – Reactivated by Francis after his election – Tweets by / at @pontifex captured since 3 Dec. 2012 (within API limits)
  • 3. @PONTIFEX • 9 9 papal accounts: – @pontifex (English) – Latin, German, Spanish, Portugue se, Polish, Italian, French, Arabic • @pontifex: – Followers: 1.6m (28 Feb. 2013), 3m+ (today) Following: 8 (the other @pontifex accounts) • No @replies sent to date
  • 4. RESEARCH APPROACH • Methods: – Tweets by and at @pontifex gathered via yourTwapperkeeper – Likely to have reached API limits (1% of global Twitter volume) during periods of extreme attention – Calculation of various standard metrics (cf. Bruns & Stieglitz 2013): • Volume, userbase distribution, most active / most visible users • Analysis: – Two key phases: Benedict XVI vs. sede vacante + Francis
  • 5. TIMELINE Sede Vacante period
  • 6. RESEARCH APPROACH • Methods: – Tweets by and at @pontifex gathered via yourTwapperkeeper – Likely to have reached API limits (1% of global Twitter volume) during periods of extreme attention – Calculation of various standard metrics (cf. Bruns & Stieglitz 2013): • Volume, userbase distribution, most active / most visible users • Analysis: – Two key phases: Benedict XVI vs. sede vacante + Francis – Qualitative exploration of most active and most visible users‟ activities • Categorisation of user types • Identification of user attitudes and sentiments
  • 7. @MENTIONS OF @PONTIFEX ACCOUNTS 3 D E C . 2 0 1 2 TO 3 1 M A R . 2 0 1 3
  • 8. USER ACTIVITIES, 10-28 FEB. 2013
  • 9. USER ACTIVITIES, 1-31 MAR. 2013
  • 10. @MENTION PATTERNS • Large volume of @mentions of the @pontifex account – Flat activity distribution: lead users contribute relatively little – Commenting rather than information sharing: • Very small percentage of tweets containing URLs • Smallish percentage of retweets • Very few retweets especially by most active users – the long tail of participants contributes the most retweets – More activity around Benedict XVI‟s resignation than Francis‟s election and inauguration
  • 11. ENGAGEMENT AND RESONANCE • Further qualitative investigation: – Most active and most visible users (top 30): • Active = number of tweets sent mentioning @pontifex • Visible = @mentioned in tweets also mentioning @pontifex – Qualitative examination of: • User profile (as of mid-2013) • Tweets sent or @mentioned in – Development of preliminary categories for users and tweets – Tweets/profiles in languages other than English ignored unless intelligible to the researchers
  • 12. @REPLIERS: MOST ACTIVE ACCOUNTS
  • 13. @REPLIERS: CLASSIFICATION SCHEMA • Attitudes: – Positive / neutral / negative towards the pope – Positive / neutral / negative towards the church – Positive / neutral / negative towards religion • Other categories: – Obsessive / unhinged – Retweet bots – Other / unintelligible
  • 14. MARCH FEBRUARY TOP 30 @REPLIERS - CLASSIFICATION
  • 15. TOP 30 @REPLIERS – THEMES • Key themes in tweets directed at @pontifex: – Pro: support, thanks, good wishes – Anti: criticism of homophobia, paedophilia – Mixed: supportive of pope but critical of pomp and glory of church and rituals (especially during February period) – Mixed: extreme conservativism, concerns over „new ways‟ and modernisation of the church (especially during March period) – Obsessive / unhinged: extreme religiosity, seeking direct contact with pope or god; non-sensical tweets with religious themes
  • 16. TOP 30 @REPLIERS – THEMES • Pro: (Retweeted by second most active @replier, 12 Feb.) http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/02/pontifex-project-week-6/
  • 17. TOP 30 @REPLIERS – THEMES • Anti: Catholic World In Shock After POPE Resigns http://t.co/z7LV2YIp BUT NOT SHOCKED THAT HE @PONTIFEX HID PEDOFILE PRIESTS WHO DESTROYED LIVES (Fifth most active @replier, 12 Feb.)
  • 18. IMAGE TWEETS (Third most active @replier, 10 Feb. – reposted from same account ~25 times.)
  • 19. TOP 30 @REPLIERS – THEMES • Mixed: – critical of pomp and glory of church / rituals, but supportive of religion as such @pontifex #askpontifex #catholic #cardinals look at you #costumes #pride #circus #hypocrit #control you will elect one of your own? #disgust (seventh most active @replier, 1 Mar.)
  • 20. TOP 30 @REPLIERS – THEMES • Mixed: – conservative Catholics, concer ned about „new ways‟ / modernisation of church – especially after Francis‟s election (19th most active @replier, 22 Mar.)
  • 21. TOP 30 @REPLIERS – THEMES • Obsessive / unhinged: – extreme religiosity; seeking direct contact with Pope/God [1:] @Pontifex let me tell you a story ... In 2007 I was sitting at school at Gannon university next to the statue of Jesus teaching [2:] the whole worlds weight fell on my shoulders I felt the burden of faith fall in my lap and it was hard to do at that time [3:] I have been matured and humbled from then it was an ephifiney I knew what I had to do and now I know how to do it in 2013 [4:] I have come out of the weeds to save the human race once again in the likeness of the beginning and the end shall nevermore [5:] that's the light that is in the free drawing I heard from the bloody red sea of souls (14th most active @replier, 10 Mar.)
  • 22. TOP 30 @REPLIERS – THEMES • Obsessive / unhinged: – nonsensical @Pontifex AZ(^O^)7 Jesus said viper's children!repent!Why have you given you hard by yourself?Why can you want me his words?Robber!Liar! (Second most active @replier, 16 Feb.)
  • 23. TOP 30 @REPLIERS – ENGAGEMENT Who engages? • More supporters than critics, especially during first phase (Benedict XVI resignation) • Peaceful thankyous and goodbyes • More mixed feelings in second phase (sede vacante and Francis‟s election and inauguration) • Uncertainty, fear of change • More obsessive / unhinged @mentions in second phase • Are the Top 30 representative?
  • 24. RECIPIENTS: MOST VISIBLE ACCOUNTS
  • 25. TOP 30 RECIPIENTS – 10-28 FEB. 2013 @robdelaney @rickygervais @pontifex_es @YOUCAT_spanish @marianorajoy @Dio @guglielmoscilla @BBCBreaking @SraBilis @frankieboyle comedian comedian Pope (account in Spanish) religious (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) Spanish Prime Minister god (non-existent) Italian actor, writer, Youtuber news ??? comedian
  • 26. TOP 30 RECIPIENTS – 1-31 MAR. 2013 Pontifex_es JMBergoglio NicolasMaduro BBCBreaking BBCWorld ESPcatolicos Pontifex_it twitterreligion EPN CNNEE Pope (account in Spanish) Francis (fake account) President of Venezuela news news “Catholics of Spain” (unofficial) Pope (account in Italian) official Twitter Inc. account President of Mexico CNN (account in Spanish)
  • 27. MARCH FEBRUARY TOP 30 RECIPIENTS - CLASSIFICATION
  • 28. TOP 30 RECIPIENTS: SENTIMENTS AND ATTITUDES • What has resonance? – Tweets – Attitudes • • • • Religious Funny News Support (thankyous / welcome) • Critical • Pro • Anti • Neutral (light / news) • Unidentifiable (no original tweets; language) • Unidentifiable
  • 29. TOP 30 RECIPIENTS – SENTIMENTS AND ATTITUDES • Religious: – Internet personality @Pontifex Holy Father, millions of people are praying for you. #catholic #prayer #pope #benedictxvi (@fatherz, 10 Feb.)
  • 30. TOP 30 RECIPIENTS – SENTIMENTS AND ATTITUDES • Funny: – Comedian – Pro @Pontifex I'll miss you bro. A lot of popes suck, but you were cool. And fuck me if you're not the best dancer to ever wear that silly hat. (@robdelaney, 28 Feb)
  • 31. TOP 30 RECIPIENTS – SENTIMENTS AND ATTITUDES • Funny: – Parody account – Anti I forced @Pontifex to resign when I learned that he had abused Vatican altar boys who were only 53. #cradlerobber. (@almightygod, 11 Feb)
  • 32. TOP 30 RECIPIENTS – SENTIMENTS AND ATTITUDES • Funny – Writer – Neutral
  • 33. TOP 30 RECIPIENTS – SENTIMENTS AND ATTITUDES • News: – News organisation – Neutral Pope Benedict XVI becomes first @Pontifex in 600 years to step down #Catholic Church now officially without a #pope http://t.co/FGGsIDAnqi (@BBCBreaking, 28 Feb)
  • 34. TOP 30 RECIPIENTS - PATTERNS • Accounts @mentioned in tweets to @pontifex: – Mainly due to retweets of their tweets to / about @pontifex – Some accounts frequently @mentioned due to comparisons between them and the Pope (e.g. Spanish PM @marianorajoy) • 10-28 Feb. 2013: – Retweets of positive tweets about @pontifex – Retweets of neutral and negative jokes about @pontifex – Retweets of neutral news about @pontifex • 1-31 Mar. 2013: – Retweets of positive tweets about @pontifex – Retweets of neutral jokes about @pontifex – Retweets of neutral news about @pontifex
  • 35. @REPLIERS VS. RECIPIENTS • @repliers – 10-28 Feb: • More support than criticism • Thanks and goodbyes – 1-31 Mar.: • Mixed feelings • Fear and uncertainty • Obsessive and unhinged • Recipients: – 10-28 Feb.: • News reports • Critical and neutral jokes • Collateral targets – 1-31 Mar.: • News reports • Positive and neutral jokes • Fakes
  • 36. http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ @snurb_dot_info @lena_sauter @jeanburgess @dpwoodford @timhighfield http://socialmedia.qut.edu.au/ @socialmediaQUT