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Cross-platform communication and context: assessing social media engagement in Public Diplomacy

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This paper will address the tools employed and the ethical, practical and methodological challenges of my research by using the Twitter data collected during the G20 2014 in Brisbane. The new computational tools developed in digital methods are really powerful on mapping Twitter conversations related to a particular topic. Nevertheless, there are still several limitations in the collection and in the analysis of the data. These methodological challenges are addressed in my research project, which aims to explore the growing of Public Diplomacy activities on social media. Indeed, according to the Twiplomacy Study (2014), the vast majority of the 193 UN member countries have a presence on Twitter and more than two-thirds of all heads of state and heads of government have personal accounts on the social network.

Yet, the study of Public Diplomacy on social media is still struggling to find an appropriate research method that is able to capture the complexity of the social media communication and assess engagement and participation. Particularly, these tasks have become challenging due to the new phenomenon of the cross-platform communication. Indeed, nowadays users share and comment news on social media, while traditional media, like TV channels and newspapers often report back what has been discussed on social media.

By analysing the Twitter data collected during the G20 2014 in Brisbane, I will describe some aspects of my methodological approach for the study of Public Diplomacy on Twitter. The paper will suggest that we need a mixed approach to comprehend the context and the cross-platform communication. To do so, tweets should be understood as units of information related to each other and visualised in the form of networks. Once key actors are found and relations among the different nodes visualised, a count of the URLs in our dataset will provide interesting information in terms of contents shared in the conversation. By manually looking at the information shared, the context of the conversation will emerge. In this sense, large datasets should be first visualised as whole and then analysed by zooming in the dataset and selecting particular interesting units, which will contain clues to understand the context and the flow of information between different platforms and websites.

Published in: Data & Analytics
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Cross-platform communication and context: assessing social media engagement in Public Diplomacy

  1. 1. Cross-platform communication and context: assessing social media engagement in Public Diplomacy @luigi_dm
  2. 2. Structure ● Public Diplomacy and Social Media; ● Case study: the G20 2014 in Brisbane; ● Public Diplomacy and News Media actors on Twitter; ● Computational and manual analysis combined: an example; ● Final methodological thoughts.
  3. 3. Public Diplomacy ● Public Diplomacy is about engaging foreign publics to advance foreign policy (Cull, 2008); ● There is no single agreed-upon definition of the term.
  4. 4. Public Diplomacy and Social Media
  5. 5. Research’s aims ● To explore Digital Methods for monitoring Public Diplomacy activities on Twitter. This means experimenting with the method to get insights about the method itself. ● To critique and assess Public Diplomacy actors’ use of social media and their articulations of influence within Twitter networks (soft power articulation). ● To examine how Public Diplomacy actors’ articulation of influence is mediated by non-diplomatic actors (News media, NGO’s, international collective action groups etc).
  6. 6. Mixed methodological approach Zoom in and out in order to observe data at different scales.
  7. 7. The G20 2014 in Brisbane: Mapping influence through Twitter networks Keyword Collection tool N. of Tweets Length of time g20 DMI-TCAT 890,631 1-16 November 2014
  8. 8. Public Diplomacy and News Media actors on Twitter The role of mainstream news media in mediating the audience's perception of the leaders’ agendas.
  9. 9. How mainstream news media mediate Public Diplomacy actors’ agendas ● Through the process of framing the discussion before and during the economic forum by connecting issues and actors (the G20 leaders in our case). This is related to the well-known process of the agenda setting theory (Shaw, 1977). Indeed, even though there is a potential direct communication between Public Diplomacy actors and citizens, such communication flow is still framed and partially mediated by mainstream news media within and beyond Twitter networks. ● In turn, mainstream news media amplify the discussion unfolding on Twitter, which is reported on newspaper and TV news coverage. This results in a circular process.
  10. 10. Counting URLs
  11. 11. An example: following the issue “shirt front” 13 October 2014 “I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin (…) I am going to be saying to Mr Putin Australians were murdered. There’ll be a lot of tough conversations with Russia and I suspect the conversation I have with Mr Putin will be the toughest conversation of all” (Sydney Morning Herald, Massola, 2014).
  12. 12. Google trends: shirt front
  13. 13. Zooming in: subsets
  14. 14. Creating subsets
  15. 15. Zooming in: text clustering
  16. 16. Zooming in: examples
  17. 17. DMI Google News Scraper
  18. 18. DMI Google News Scraper
  19. 19. Comparison News Tweets G20
  20. 20. 7.30, ABC, 11 November 2014 Tony "Tough Talk" Abbott versus "Virile" Vladimir Putin. How much macho can you take? Two great men with a phobia of fabric and a penchant for pectoral promenading set to meet face to face in the world's grandest car park, the G20. Zooming in: Google news data and framing activities
  21. 21. Tony Abbott's threat to 'shirtfront' Vladimir Putin is escalating dramatically. Seven News, 12 November 2014 Seven News can reveal a fleet of Russian warships is steaming towards Australia - a defiant show of force from the super power ahead of this weekend's G20 meeting of world leaders. In diplomatic terms, it's a worrying development for the Abbott government after its attack on Russia's role in the downing of MH17. TV News Databases
  22. 22. Zooming in: Google news data and framing activities
  23. 23. The Guardian UK 14 November 2014
  24. 24. Twitter dataser Damon Meredith, Sunrise, Channel 7. 15 November 2014
  25. 25. News Media report the Twitter conversation
  26. 26. A mixed approach ● Ask questions to my data through queries; ● Create subsets by zoom in and out in order to observe data at different scales; ● Triangulate data with other sources: i.e. news archives, Google trends, Google news.
  27. 27. Conclusions Big data and Digital Methods (Rogers, 2009) generated concerns in relation to epistemology, access, size and ethics. Such concerns can be translated into opportunities if they lead to new and mixed methodological approaches. Therefore, this paper suggests ● To go beyond methodological dichotomies thin/thick data or computational (quantitative) / manual (qualitative) analysis to get a deeper understanding of the data and explore the surrounding context (Lewis, Zamith & Hermida, 2013; Wang, 2013). ● To experiment mixed methodological approaches in the analysis of born-digital data, along with the combination and intersection of different sources. ● Transparency into the mechanisms and procedures embedded in the computational analysis and visualisations.
  28. 28. Cross-platform communication and context: assessing social media engagement in Public Diplomacy @luigi_dm

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