Social Media, Big Data, and the Public Sphere
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Social Media, Big Data, and the Public Sphere

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Paper presented at ECREA 2012, Istanbul, 25 Oct. 2012.

Paper presented at ECREA 2012, Istanbul, 25 Oct. 2012.

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Social Media, Big Data, and the Public Sphere Social Media, Big Data, and the Public Sphere Presentation Transcript

  • Social Media, Big Data,and the Public SphereAssociate Professor Axel BrunsQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbane, Australia@snurb_dot_info | http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • THE PROMISE OF BIG DATA• Social media and big data: – Substantial growth in social media usage – User activity generates data and metadata – Readily accessible through APIs – New tools for processing and visualising big data at scale• Emergence of social media analytics: – Large-scale tracking of public user activities – ‘Trending topics’, user sentiment, network influencers – Scholarly and commercial research – A computational turn towards the digital humanities (David Berry) – Ethical concerns around profiling and content ownership
  • BIG DATA AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE(S)• New methodologies: – Empirical, large-scale, real-time investigation – Data-led, comprehensive evaluation rather than small-scale sampling of public communication – But also: combined quantitative/qualitative approaches – Not studying the Internet, but studying society with the Internet (Richard Rogers)• New frameworks: – Public spherules, issue publics, personal publics (Jan Schmidt): multiple interlinked spaces in a complex media ecology
  • WHY TWITTER?• Researching Twitter: – Significant world-wide social network – ~500 million accounts (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 (big) data for research – Ethical concerns comparatively limited
  • BEYOND HASHTAGS• Publics on Twitter: – Micro: @reply and retweet conversations – Meso: follower/followee networks – Macro: hashtag ‘communities’ (Bruns & Moe, forthcoming) 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 TWITTER PUBLICS• #hashtags: – Useful coordinating mechanism for core discussion – Relatively easy to capture and analyse – Fails to capture non-hashtagged tweets about the topic – Good case studies, but very little comparative work to date• National / global Twittersphere maps: – Crucial contextual baseline for #hashtag case studies – Slow and laborious data gathering process, never complete – Very long-term perspective, beyond most funded projects – Indispensable for study of Twitter as a public space
  • #AUSVOTES (JULY-AUG. 2010): THEMES
  • #ROYALWEDDING (29 APR. 2011)
  • THE AUSTRALIAN TWITTERSPHERE? Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = outdegree, size = indegree
  • Real Estate Jobs Property HR Business ParentingTHEMATIC CLUSTERS Business Mums Craft Design Social Media Property Arts Web 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 @KRuddMP Conservatives @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
  • #AUSPOL Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = #auspol tweets, size = indegree
  • #AUSVOTES Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = #ausvotes tweets, size = indegree
  • #ROYALWEDDING Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = #royalwedding tweets, size = indeg.
  • #MASTERCHEF Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = #masterchef tweets, size = indeg.
  • THEAUSTRALIAN.COM.AU URLS Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = tweets with URLs, size = indegree
  • 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
  • TWITTER AND/IN THE MEDIA ECOLOGY
  • ‘BIG DATA’ AND RESEARCH SKILLS• Researchers need interdisciplinary skill sets: – Media & communication to understand the media environment – Maths and statistics to deal with ‘big data’ – Computer science to develop tools to process social media data – Communication design to develop effective visualisations – Writing and communication skills to communicate the results – … – Where do we find them? (few people have such a diverse range of skills) – How do we support their work? (we’re only just developing our methods and tools) – What is our strategy for dealing with precarity? (sudden API changes, changing fortunes of platforms, …)
  • http://mappingonlinepublics.net/@snurb_dot_info@jeanburgess@_StephenH@DrTNitins@timhighfield@cdtavijit