The Emergence of Trending Topics: The Dissemination of Breaking Stories on Twitter
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The Emergence of Trending Topics: The Dissemination of Breaking Stories on Twitter



Paper presented at Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space, Amsterdam, 18 June 2014.

Paper presented at Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space, Amsterdam, 18 June 2014.



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The Emergence of Trending Topics: The Dissemination of Breaking Stories on Twitter The Emergence of Trending Topics: The Dissemination of Breaking Stories on Twitter Presentation Transcript

  • The Emergence of Trending Topics: The Dissemination of Breaking Stories on Twitter Assoc. Prof. Axel Bruns / Dr. Theresa Sauter ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia a.bruns / t.sauter @ @snurb_dot_info / @lena_sauter
  • TRENDING TOPICS ON TWITTER • Twitter as “ambient news” (Hermida, Burns): – Often rapid emergence and dissemination of new information – Formation of ad hoc publics around new events, themes, topics (Bruns & Burgess) – Emerging themes identified as “trending topics” by Twitter, often associated with hashtags – Clearly visible as a result of trending – but what happens in the early stages? – Difficult to retrace trends to their point of origin, due to API access limitations – Need to understand / evaluate trending against context of: • existing network structures / typical activity patterns (also largely unknown) • coverage across wider media ecology • How to move forward? – Comprehensive investigation of background networks / activity patterns – Speculative data gathering in advance of possible trending topics
  • BACKGROUND • Twitter in Australia: – Comparatively strong take-up: ~2.8m accounts (population 23m) – Demographics: 25-55-year-olds, affluent, educated, urban – Historically strong focus on politics, e.g. #auspol, #ausvotes • Politics in Australia: – Westminster system: Australian Labor Party vs. Liberal / National Coalition – 2010-13: ALP minority government, supported by 3 Independents + 1 Green – Prime Minister Julia Gillard (ALP), Oposition Leader Tony Abbott (Lib) – Highly controversial, aggressive atmosphere in parliament – Deeply personal attacks on Gillard (as unmarried, atheist woman) in parliament and media
  • MISOGYNY DEBATE • 9. Oct. 2012: Gillard strongly criticises Abbott in ad hoc 15-minute speech • Trending topic on Twitter, 2.5m views on YouTube (by mid-2014)
  • RESEARCH DESIGN • Australian Twitter News Index: – Continuous ATNIX data gathering since mid-2012 – All tweets containing links to leading 30+ Australian news sites – Focus here on Australian Broadcasting Corporation post of the 15-minute video – I.e.: YouTube and other distribution paths not included • Analysis: – Identification and temporal / network analysis of tweets identified in ATNIX dataset – Two phases: 0-5 hours / 5-75 hours after first tweet
  • THE FIRST FIVE HOURS (0-18,000s) • Network visualisation: – Every node represents one account • Node size: number of retweets received across entire 75h timeframe • Node colour: cluster membership (according to Gephi algorithm) – Each edge represents one or more retweets – Each step represents 15 minutes – Video:
  • ANALYSIS OF MAIN ACTORS (0-5h) • Geography: – 29 Australians, 1 New Zealander, 1 British • Background: – 10 journalists – 8 feminists – 5 private accounts – 4 activists – 3 comedians – 1 cartoonist • Gradual transition from journalists to feminists • Final addition: commentator for Guardian (UK)
  • NEXT 70 HOURS (18,000-270,000s) • Network visualisation: – As previous – Each step represents one hour – Video:
  • ANALYSIS OF MAIN ACTORS (5-75h) • Geography: – 7 British, 7 Australians, 2 US accounts, 1 Canadian • Background: – 6 feminists – 4 journalists – 3 musicians – 2 comedians – 1 private account – 1 politician • Feminists, (Australian) celebrities, (British) journalists
  • DYNAMICS OF THE RETWEET CHAIN • From parliamentary procedure to media event: – First attention from journalists and “political junkies” – Commentators and comedians broaden the base – Feminists become active • From Australia to the world: – First tweets from UK delayed by timezone differences – Understandable interest: • Historical connections, Australian expat community in UK • Similar political systems, interlinkages between media organisations • Guardian Australia as Australian offshoot of Guardian (UK)
  • THE AUSTRALIAN TWITTERSPHERE Follower/followee network: ~120,000 Australian Twitter users (of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012) colour = outdegree, size = indegree
  • THEMATIC CLUSTERS Perth Marketing / PR Design Web Creative Farming Agriculture Hardline Conservatives Conservatives Journalists ALP Progressives Greens News Opinion News NGOs Social Policy IT Tech Social Media Tech PR Advertising Real Estate Property Jobs HR Business Business Property Parenting Mums Craft Arts Food Wine Beer Adelaide Social ICTs Creative Design Fashion Beauty Utilities Services Net Culture Books Literature Publishing Film Theatre Arts Radio TV Music Dance Hip Hop Triple J Talkback Breakfast TV CelebritiesCycling Union NRL Football Cricket AFL Swimming V8s Evangelicals Teaching e-Learning Schools Christians Hillsong Teens Jonas Bros. Beliebers @KRuddMP @JuliaGillard
  • 7.5 mins. elapsed @abcnews
  • 15 mins. elapsed
  • 30 mins. elapsed Journalists
  • 1 hour elapsed Feminists
  • 1 ½ hours elapsed
  • 2 hours elapsed
  • 2 ½ hours elapsed
  • 3 hours elapsed
  • 3 ½ hours elapsed
  • 4 hours elapsed
  • 4 ½ hours elapsed
  • 5 hours elapsed
  • complete network
  • RESULTS • Dissemination dynamics: – Long tail early on, fat head towards the end: • starts with many individual shares by a diverse range of participants, • ends mainly with retweets of best-known / most influential accounts • Event dynamics: – From breaking news to longer-term media / political issue – From political spectacle to feminist rallying cry • Network dynamics: – Flat at first, then increasingly structured – Single acocunts (e.g. @dawnhfoster) as bridging points to new networks – Influencers most persistently retweeted
  • FUTURE AIMS • Further research: – Continued improvement of analytical methods • Other approaches to analysing / visualising retweet chains? – Repeat for other cases • How to gather data (beyond ATNIX)? – Comparisons across other themes, and national contexts • Different forms of breaking news, different Twitterspheres – Importance of background data • E.g. follower networks, Twitter careers of participating accounts – Impact of coverage in other media? • Fewer retweets for themes already prominent in other media?
  • @snurb_dot_info @lena_sauter @jeanburgess @dpwoodford @timhighfield