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SHORTer VERSION - Liminality and Communitas in Social Media - The case of Twitter


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SHORTer VERSION - Liminality and Communitas in Social Media - The case of Twitter

  1. 1. Liminality and Communitas in Social Media: The Case of Twitter Jana Herwig, M.A. Dept. of Theatre, Film & Media Studies University of Vienna Email: [email_address] Twitter: @digiom Blog:
  2. 2. Hum? Tendovaginitis Microlearning Conference Innsbruck Holiday My Twittering according to
  3. 3. Rite of Passage (Turner): 1 - Subject is stripped of its social status 2 - Liminality: Subject goes through a transitional phase marked by chaos, anti-structure and egalitarian relations between initiands (communitas) 3 - Reintegration with an elevated status
  4. 4. 0 friends 0 followers 0 updates Detachment from Social Status
  5. 5. Chaos and anti-structure
  6. 6. Levelling of hierarchies pic by @mimimixer
  7. 7. <ul><li>Interfaces </li></ul><ul><li>Analysis of the symbols </li></ul><ul><li>that shape liminoid experience </li></ul><ul><li>Users </li></ul><ul><li>Chronological close reading of individual timelines </li></ul><ul><li>Social Media Services </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Early adopters’ vs ‘mainstream users’ </li></ul>
  8. 8. Symbols of inclusion/exclusion Log-in Sign-up
  9. 9. Sign-up? (how cynical…)
  10. 10. Optional anonymity: No real name check… yet (Project Verified Accounts) Creation of liminoid subject
  11. 11. <ul><li>Why anonymity (rather: lack of notoriety) matters </li></ul><ul><li>Communitas is volatile: With real names and ‘meat space’ relationships, social structures and hierarchies are re-injected into Twitter. </li></ul>How did it feel when your boss (colleague, high school mate, mother ...) started following you on Twitter? (email me:
  12. 12. Example 1: With its more than 2 million followers, the account @oprah receives several replies in an hour, but has replied just six times in its first seven months – just once to a non-celebrity.
  13. 13. Example 2: Although the informal ‘Du’ is typically used between German-speaking Twitter users, the account of Austrian TV-anchor @ArminWolf is mostly addressed with the formal ‘Sie’.
  14. 14. <ul><li>Anonymity structures competition between Social Media platforms </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook : Oppressed. Accounts with ‘fake’ names are suspended </li></ul><ul><li>4chan Random board /b/ : Enforced. Derogatory terms for users w/ names </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter : Optional Anonymity; </li></ul><ul><li>Nuanced negotiation of Anonymity/notoriety </li></ul><ul><li>Incentives to give up anonymity </li></ul>
  15. 15. Sample 1: signed-up Oct’06 - Mar‘07 94% (15 out of 16) went on a hiatus of ≥ 28 days, 75% (12) did so in first 2 months Sample 2: signed-up Mar’09 - Jul‘09 9% (1 out of 11) stopped updating for ≥ 28 days (max. time on Twitter: 6 months)
  16. 16. User A
  17. 17. User B
  18. 18. User D
  19. 19. User G
  20. 20. User K
  21. 21. User L The used visualization tool starts with the first update; User L wrote the first update 600 days after signing-up.
  22. 22. User O (‘Lead User’) Video with all activity patterns in sample 1:
  23. 23. <ul><li>What do people write about when they first use or when they return to Twitter? </li></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>View on Twitter as a web technology </li></ul><ul><li>“ Testing this twitter Flex interface” </li></ul><ul><li>“ wondering if there’s a way to push Adium / Facebook updates to Twitter automatically” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Just twitting from my DOS console” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Trying to figure out the twitter api” </li></ul>
  25. 25. <ul><li>View on Twitter as part of a mobile gadget culture </li></ul><ul><li>“ Loving my Touch. Mobilicious.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Got a nokia e61i now... Getting connected to everything mobile” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Google Latitude... Cool...” </li></ul>
  26. 26. Sample 1: signed-up Oct’06 - Mar‘07 ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● 12.5% women (2 of 16 active users, randomly identified) Sample 1: signed-up Oct’06 - Mar‘07 ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● 91% women (10 of 11 active users, randomly identified)
  27. 27. <ul><li>View on Twitter as a social sphere </li></ul><ul><li>“ thinking about next season as a Happy Hammer - prompted by a fellow fan now following me.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ @xxx You are not the only one in the UK that is glad to see AmberMac back on here, Shame Net@Nite is no longer recorded live though ” </li></ul>
  28. 28. <ul><li>Twitter as a liminal challenge </li></ul><ul><li>“ Testing this gadget” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Testing twitter” </li></ul><ul><li>“ back” </li></ul><ul><li>“ ASDf” </li></ul><ul><li>“ mic check, 1-2” </li></ul><ul><li>“ i totally forgot about twitter, i suck” </li></ul><ul><li>“ trying to remember how to use twitter” </li></ul>
  29. 29. <ul><li>Early Twitter as asocial medium </li></ul><ul><li>In their very first update, 87.5% (14 out of 16) reported what they were doing. </li></ul><ul><li>(one reported what he was going to do, another posted a sequence of arbitrary characters). </li></ul><ul><li>Study by Mischaud 2007: 41.5% </li></ul><ul><li>reported what they were doing </li></ul><ul><li>(Content analysis of 5767 tweets from 60 users) </li></ul>
  30. 30. <ul><li>The social dimension </li></ul><ul><li>Are users aware of the presence of others? </li></ul><ul><li>(User L’s sixth update, posted on day 745 on Twitter, responding to someone with a similar nickname) </li></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>The @-response as indicator </li></ul><ul><li>After having posted their first @-response, 75% of users in the ‘early adopter’ sample did not experience another hiatus . </li></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>The 1 st @-response </li></ul><ul><li>Early adopters: within 21 to 745 days </li></ul><ul><li>(average: 411, median: 404) </li></ul><ul><li>It was contained in update no. </li></ul><ul><li>3 to 302 (average: no. 68, median 34) </li></ul><ul><li>Mainstream users achieved this within </li></ul><ul><li>1 to 25 days (average: 8, median: 4) </li></ul><ul><li>It was contained in update no. </li></ul><ul><li>1 to 64 (average: no. 14, median: 6) </li></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>Types of Social mechanisms </li></ul><ul><li>Default social mechanisms: </li></ul><ul><li>Built into the system, could be triggered automatically, e.g. @-response. </li></ul><ul><li>Emergent social mechanisms: </li></ul><ul><li>Result of collective experiment with social-semantic opportunities of a text field, </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. retweeting, hashtags (may be turned into default ones) </li></ul>
  34. 34. <ul><li>Appropriation of # and RT </li></ul><ul><li>Hashtags: </li></ul><ul><li>EA 292 - 957 d (average 697, median 708.5) </li></ul><ul><li>MS 1 - 143 days (average 45, median 31) </li></ul><ul><li>Retweeting: </li></ul><ul><li>EA 405 - 947 days (average 701, median 705) </li></ul><ul><li>MS 1 - 94 days (average 39, median 34,5) </li></ul><ul><li>(N.B. These mechanisms had presumably not yet emerged when sample 1 signed up) </li></ul>
  35. 35. <ul><li>Creation of a Liminal Subject </li></ul><ul><li>< First steps on Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>Communitas as anti-structural community > </li></ul><ul><li>< Forms of community that become possible (and are also precarious) on Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>Role of Liminality within society > </li></ul><ul><li>< Social Media as space for social innovation </li></ul><ul><li>Social Media exist at the interface of technology, individual practice & society. </li></ul>
  36. 36. Questions or Feedback? Send an email to jana . [email_address] . ac .at or, preferably, post a comment on my blog. You can also download the draft paper (with data, comment and annotations) from there: http: //digiom . wordpress . com/2009/10/05/coming-to-grips-with-twitter-200607-vs-2009 Short link: http: //wp . me/peBnE-u4 Longer version of this presentation (optimized for lack of audio) is on slideshare, username anaj