Twitter and Australian political debates
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Twitter and Australian political debates

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Presentation for DEL Colloque 'Online Political Participations and Its Critics', Paris, June 2013.

Presentation for DEL Colloque 'Online Political Participations and Its Critics', Paris, June 2013.

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    Twitter and Australian political debates Twitter and Australian political debates Presentation Transcript

    • Twitter and Australian political debates Tim Highfield ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia t.highfield @ qut.edu.au @timhighfield http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ | http://timhighfield.net/
    • POLITICAL DEBATE ONLINE • The potential for online platforms (individually and collectively) to reshape and/or revitalise political debate is a long-standing question • An evolving continuum of online political discussions, developed through blogs, citizen journalism projects, social media • Platforms not used in isolation; people discussing politics online tweet about it, blog, share links, comment on statuses…
    • TWITTER AND POLITICAL DEBATE • While not used in isolation, Twitter is a particularly noteworthy platform for political discussion online: – Public medium (mostly) – Brevity of messages – Associated features: retweets, hashtags, @mentions • Adoption of Twitter as a popular and primary medium for live commentary accompanying (media) events, breaking news, activism (and combinations of these approaches, taking place in same space).
    • POLITICAL DISCUSSION ON TWITTER • Potential for political debate to involve wider population than just journalists and politicians? • New gatekeepers? • Follow and respond directly to people creating news/shaping politics • To what extent, though, are these different participants in political discussions interacting – or even contributing to the same conversations?
    • METHODS • Comparative analysis of three Australian political hashtags; data collected between January and December 2012 – #auspol – Federal – #qldpol – Queensland – #wapol – Western Australia • Methods – yourTwapperkeeper captures tweets with specified hashtags from Twitter API – Gawk scripts for processing large datasets (Bruns & Burgess, 2011), Gephi for network visualisation
    • AUSTRALIAN POLITICS • Federal politics: currently led by centre-left Australian Labor Party (ALP), Prime Minister Julia Gillard; next election due in September 2013, expected to be won by centre-right (conservative) Liberal/National coalition, led by Tony Abbott. Voting is compulsory (93% turnout in 2010). • State politics: – Six states, all bicameral systems except Queensland (unicameral) – Start of 2012: three states ALP in power, three Liberal. (Liberal-National Party took power in Queensland in March 2012).
    • AUSTRALIAN POLITICS AND TWITTER • Twitter more widely taken up – by politicians and general public – than previous technologies such as blogging. • Accounts established for sitting politicians – At Federal level, 146 of 226 members of Lower and Upper Houses present on Twitter (July 2012) • Hashtags for different political events/broadcasts: – #ausvotes, #ausdecides, #qldvotes – election campaigns – #qt, #waqt – Parliamentary Question Time – #qanda, #insiders – Q & A, Insiders political panel shows
    • #AUSPOL • Popularised around 2010 Federal election (alongside election- specific hashtags such as #ausvotes) as overarching label for Australian political topics • Endured post-election; however, rather than a space for political debate, seen as increasingly polarised and frequented by trolls: Viewing and participating in 'discussions' on the Twitter stream of #auspol is to immerse yourself in a political cesspit. It is the dark alley in Twitter you walk down when you wonder if you have told anyone where you were going that night. (Jericho, 2012) • State-based hashtags less afflicted by this development (in general)?
    • #AUSPOL – 1,002,451 tweets (15/01-04/07), 50,622 users – 19.8 tweets per user, 5,828 tweets per day 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 2012-Jan-15 2012-Jan-19 2012-Jan-23 2012-Jan-27 2012-Jan-31 2012-Feb-04 2012-Feb-08 2012-Feb-12 2012-Feb-16 2012-Feb-20 2012-Feb-24 2012-Feb-28 2012-Mar-03 2012-Mar-07 2012-Mar-11 2012-Mar-15 2012-Mar-19 2012-Mar-23 2012-Mar-27 2012-Mar-31 2012-Apr-04 2012-Apr-08 2012-Apr-12 2012-Apr-16 2012-Apr-20 2012-Apr-24 2012-Apr-28 2012-May-02 2012-May-06 2012-May-10 2012-May-14 2012-May-18 2012-May-22 2012-May-26 2012-May-30 2012-Jun-03 2012-Jun-07 2012-Jun-11 2012-Jun-15 2012-Jun-19 2012-Jun-23 2012-Jun-27 2012-Jul-01Carbontax Asylumseekerdebate ALPleadershipspill Budget CraigThomson CraigThomson
    • #QLDPOL – 49,300 tweets (15/01-04/07), 5,668 users – 8.7 tweets per user, 286.6 tweets per day State election Civil partnerships bill amended 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2012-Jan-15 2012-Jan-19 2012-Jan-23 2012-Jan-27 2012-Jan-31 2012-Feb-04 2012-Feb-08 2012-Feb-12 2012-Feb-16 2012-Feb-20 2012-Feb-24 2012-Feb-28 2012-Mar-03 2012-Mar-07 2012-Mar-11 2012-Mar-15 2012-Mar-19 2012-Mar-23 2012-Mar-27 2012-Mar-31 2012-Apr-04 2012-Apr-08 2012-Apr-12 2012-Apr-16 2012-Apr-20 2012-Apr-24 2012-Apr-28 2012-May-02 2012-May-06 2012-May-10 2012-May-14 2012-May-18 2012-May-22 2012-May-26 2012-May-30 2012-Jun-03 2012-Jun-07 2012-Jun-11 2012-Jun-15 2012-Jun-19 2012-Jun-23 2012-Jun-27 2012-Jul-01 Tweets Date
    • #WAPOL – 21,261 tweets (15/01-26/12), 2,855 users – 7.4 tweets per user, 61 tweets per day Opposition leadership change Treasurer resigns Cabinet reshuffle Budget 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 2012/01/15 2012/01/22 2012/01/29 2012/02/05 2012/02/12 2012/02/19 2012/02/26 2012/03/04 2012/03/11 2012/03/18 2012/03/25 2012/04/01 2012/04/08 2012/04/15 2012/04/22 2012/04/29 2012/05/06 2012/05/13 2012/05/20 2012/05/27 2012/06/03 2012/06/10 2012/06/17 2012/06/24 2012/07/01 2012/07/08 2012/07/15 2012/07/22 2012/07/29 2012/08/05 2012/08/12 2012/08/19 2012/08/26 2012/09/02 2012/09/09 2012/09/16 2012/09/23 2012/09/30 2012/10/07 2012/10/14 2012/10/21 2012/10/28 2012/11/04 2012/11/11 2012/11/18 2012/11/25 2012/12/02 2012/12/09 2012/12/16 2012/12/23 Tweets Date Pre-election
    • WHO IS TWEETING? – Highly active group of users within #auspol hashtag: • Top 1% users contribute 64% of tweets • 6 users responsible for 87,696 tweets 0 200000 400000 600000 800000 1000000 1200000 all 50662 users users > 0% (>= 0 tweets; 45514 of 50662 users) users > 90% (>= 14 tweets; 4639 of 50662 users) users > 99% (>= 297 tweets; 510 of 50662 users) Sum of original tweets Sum of genuine @replies Sum of retweets
    • WHO IS TWEETING? #AUSPOL – Highly active group of users within #auspol hashtag: • These especially active users not elected parliamentarians or journalists • Instead, politically engaged citizens (or automated accounts) – Fit Coleman’s (2006) description of “political junkies”, who treat political issues as major topics of interest and actively seek out relevant news and opinion pieces? – MPs, journalists, media organisations mentioned often in tweets • However, these accounts (especially politicians) do not contribute many tweets to the #auspol discussion
    • WHO IS TWEETING? #QLDPOL – Tweeting patterns also show a core group of users contributing the majority of hashtagged tweets • Some overlap with the prominent #auspol users. – The users that are most mentioned are a mixture of these frequent contributors and key state political actors, who do not necessarily participate in these discussions themselves. • Limits to this analysis due to election in first half of 2012; user names, and affiliations, changed (including @TheQldPremier) • Further analysis required to establish on-going patterns beyond the election context.
    • WHO IS TWEETING? #WAPOL – A lower level of activity, but greater representation amongst most mentioned and also most active accounts by journalists and politicians • A more even spread of – and comparable contributions from – citizens (including the “political junkies”), journalists, and politicians alike. – Changing patterns towards end of year as election campaigns are readied • Party strategies regarding social media have some impact on the developing shape of tweeted political debates
    • WHO IS TWEETING? – Politicians in particular often mentioned a lot, but rarely contribute to hashtagged debates • @mentions as a shorthand for discussing politicians, creating a link to their account, rather than necessarily expecting conversation – Presence of core group of “political junkies” leading (in volume if not in topic) these discussions • Framing of politics around personalities (individual politicians) rather than parties? • Tweeting patterns still follow major news stories, debates around party leaders (particularly in hung parliament situation, in build-up to election).
    • LIMITATIONS AND FURTHER OUTLOOK • Caveats: – Not all voters on Twitter - not representative of entire electorate – No requirement to use hashtag/engage with others using it • Active choice by user to connect to wider discussion • Users replying to hashtagged comments might not include it in their tweets • Intentions of hashtags, functions of use • Future directions – Case studies within the different political contexts – Replies and retweets, information flows, across party affiliation, between different user groups (journalists, politicians), regions, themes • Ongoing tracking, comparing non-election and election periods (QLD 2012; WA and AUS 2013).