The Use of Twitter Hashtags in the Formation of Ad Hoc Publics

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Paper by Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess, presented at the ECPR 2011 conference, Reykjavík, 26 Aug. 2011.

Paper by Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess, presented at the ECPR 2011 conference, Reykjavík, 26 Aug. 2011.

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  • 1. The Use of Twitter Hashtags in the Formation of Ad Hoc Publics
    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. #hashtags on Twitter
    Hashtag =‘#’ + some 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
  • 3. Introduction & Contestation
    In 2007, Twitter didn’t have trending topics, integrated search or hashtags
  • 4. Introduction & Contestation
  • 5. Introduction & Contestation
  • 6. Introduction & Contestation
  • 7. Adoption & Retention
    Compelling use cases, uptake by influential lead users
    Very simple architectural integration (built-in ‘tracking’ feature)
    Uptake in external developer community (Twitter Search, hashtags.orgetc)
  • 8. Popularisation & Proliferation…
  • 9. Popularisation & Proliferation…
  • 10. Popularisation & Proliferation…
  • 11. Popularisation & Proliferation…
  • 12. Popularisation & Proliferation…
  • 13. #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?
  • 14. Ad Hoc: Labor Leadership #spill
    23 June, 19:00-00:00:Speculation
    24 June, 08:00-15:00:Party Vote & Aftermath
  • 15. Forming an Ad Hoc Issue Public
    #spill as a hashtag takeover:
    Ok what's with the #spill tag? Has BP dumped more oil?
    those who do not know a #spill in leadership terms is basically saying the big job is now vacant no relation to the oil spill of bp style
  • 16.
  • 17.
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  • 19.
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  • 21. Ad Hoc: #eqnz
    22/2 23 24 25 26 27 28 1/3 2 3 4 5 6 7
  • 22. An Ad Hoc Public: #eqnz @replies
    mainstream media
  • 23. Managing the Hashtag
    Ensuring ‘proper’ use:
    @NZcivildefence please use #eqnz hashtag. Thanks.
    Earthquake in New Zealand = #eqnz. Earthquake in Japan = #eqjp. Earthquake in the U.S. = #earthquake. Hmmmmmm.
  • 24. Ad Hoc? #royalwedding
  • 25. Ad Hoc? Crises and Other Events
    (top 1% most active users in each hashtag;size = percentage of total tweet volume)
  • 26. Beyond Hashtags
    Publics on Twitter:
    Micro: @reply and retweet conversations
    Meso: hashtag ‘communities’
    Macro: follower/followee networks
     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
  • 27. The Australian Twittersphere
    Follower/followee network:~150,000 Australian Twitter users(of ~550,000 known accounts so far) colour = outdegree, size = indegree
  • 28. The Australian Twittersphere
  • 29.