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#auspol, #qldpol, and #wapol:
Twitter and the new
Australian political
commentariat
Tim Highfield, Axel Bruns, and Stephen Harrington
ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
Queensland University of Technology
Brisbane, Australia

t.highfield | a.bruns | s.harrington @ qut.edu.au
@timhighfield | @snurb_dot_info | @_StephenH
http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
AUSTRALIAN POLITICS ONLINE

• 2007 election campaign – Kevin 07, psephology blogs
• Political blogs
   – Not widely taken up by politicians, confrontational
     relationship at times between bloggers and mainstream
     media
   – Similar relationship at times developed on Twitter
      • GrogsGate
• Social media
      • Larger Australian userbase on Twitter than within
        blogosphere
      • Twitter for breaking politicial news (#spill)
DISCUSSIONS IN THE BLOGOSPHERE

• Australian political blogosphere organised less along
  party lines than around topics of interest
   – Economics, polling data, feminist issues
   – ‘Niche’ bloggers adding to debate by examining topics
     from the context of their own speciality subjects
   – Promoted and responded to by ‘A-list’ bloggers (including
     group blogs) covering politics in general (Highfield, 2011)
POLITICAL DISCUSSION ON TWITTER

• New gatekeepers on Twitter?
   – News and opinion circulated, critiqued, challenged on
     social media
      • Extension of gatewatching (Bruns, 2005)
      • Follow and respond directly to people creating news/shaping
        politics
   – 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
AUSTRALIAN POLITICS AND TWITTER

• Accounts established for sitting politicians
   – At Federal level, 146 of 226 members of Lower and Upper
     Houses present on Twitter (July 2012)
   – Accounts also for government departments, political
     parties, media releases

• 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)
TWITTER AND AUSTRALIAN POLITICS

• Tracking three general political hashtags since January
  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
10000
                                                         12000
                                                                 14000




                0
                     2000
                            4000
                                   6000
                                          8000
 2012-Jan-15
 2012-Jan-19
 2012-Jan-23
 2012-Jan-27
 2012-Jan-31
 2012-Feb-04
                                                                                                                          #AUSPOL


 2012-Feb-08
 2012-Feb-12
 2012-Feb-16
 2012-Feb-20
 2012-Feb-24        ALP leadershiip spill
 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
                    Craig Thomson
2012-May-06
2012-May-10         Budget
2012-May-14
2012-May-18
2012-May-22
2012-May-26
                    Craig Thomson
2012-May-30
                                                                         – 1,002,451 tweets (15/01-04/07), 50,622 users




 2012-Jun-03
 2012-Jun-07
 2012-Jun-11
 2012-Jun-15
 2012-Jun-19
 2012-Jun-23
 2012-Jun-27        Asylum seeker debate
  2012-Jul-01       Carbon tax
#AUSPOL

 – Highly active group of users within hashtag:
        • Top 1% users contribute 64% of tweets
        • 6 users responsible for 87,696 tweets
  1200000


  1000000


  800000


  600000                                                                                      Sum of original tweets
                                                                                              Sum of genuine @replies
  400000                                                                                      Sum of retweets

  200000


       0
            all 50662 users   users > 0% (>= 0     users > 90% (>= 14   users > 99% (>= 297
                              tweets; 45514 of   tweets; 4639 of 50662 tweets; 510 of 50662
                                50662 users)             users)                users)
REPRESENTATIVE LIMITS OF #AUSPOL

• 13 April 2012: Sen. Bob Brown resigns as Greens leader
   – 11am 13 April 2012-midnight 14 April 2012:
      • Mentions of “Bob Brown”, “Christine Milne” #bobbrown,
        @SenatorBobBrown, @SenatorMilne: 13,028 tweets, 7311
        users
      • Mentions of these keywords + #auspol: 1547 tweets, 924
        users
      • Mentions of #auspol (all contexts): 6989 tweets, 2092 users

   – Bob Brown – 22.1% of #auspol tweets
   – #auspol – 11.9% of Bob Brown tweets
   – 8065 users – 1338 both Bob Brown + #auspol (16.6%)
0
                                                                 1500
                                                                        2000
                                                                                                    2500




                 500
                       1000
15/01/2012
21/01/2012
27/01/2012
 2/02/2012
 8/02/2012
14/02/2012
20/02/2012
26/02/2012
                                                                                                                                                        • #qldpol
 3/03/2012
 9/03/2012
15/03/2012




                              State election
21/03/2012
27/03/2012
 2/04/2012
 8/04/2012
14/04/2012
20/04/2012
26/04/2012
 2/05/2012
 8/05/2012
14/05/2012
20/05/2012
26/05/2012
 1/06/2012
 7/06/2012
13/06/2012
19/06/2012
                               Civil partnerships bill amended




25/06/2012
 1/07/2012
 7/07/2012
13/07/2012
19/07/2012
25/07/2012
                                                                               Government funding
                                                                                                           – 116,873 tweets (15/01-15/10), 9531 users




31/07/2012
 6/08/2012
                                                                                                                                                                    THE STATE LEVEL: QUEENSLAND




12/08/2012
18/08/2012
24/08/2012
30/08/2012
 5/09/2012
11/09/2012
17/09/2012
23/09/2012
29/09/2012
                                                                               Budget




 5/10/2012
11/10/2012
0
                 100
                       200
                                                  300
                                                                                400
                                                                                                                600

                                                                                      500
15/01/2012
21/01/2012
27/01/2012
 2/02/2012
 8/02/2012
14/02/2012
20/02/2012
                                                                                                                                                                  • #wapol
26/02/2012
 3/03/2012
 9/03/2012
15/03/2012
21/03/2012
27/03/2012
 2/04/2012




                             Opposition leadership change
 8/04/2012
14/04/2012
20/04/2012
26/04/2012
 2/05/2012
 8/05/2012
14/05/2012
20/05/2012
26/05/2012
                             Budget



 1/06/2012
 7/06/2012
13/06/2012
19/06/2012
25/06/2012
 1/07/2012
 7/07/2012
13/07/2012
19/07/2012
                                                                                            Treasurer resigns




25/07/2012
                                                                                                                      – 16,001 tweets (15/01-15/10), 2373 users




31/07/2012
 6/08/2012
                                                            Cabinet reshuffle




12/08/2012
18/08/2012
24/08/2012
30/08/2012
 5/09/2012
11/09/2012
17/09/2012
23/09/2012
29/09/2012
 5/10/2012
11/10/2012
                                                                                                                                                                             THE STATE LEVEL: WESTERN AUSTRALIA
#AUSPOL AND FEDERAL POLITICIANS




                        @mentions/RTs by active
                        Federal politicians in
                        #auspol tweets

                        Black – journalist/MSM
                        Red – ALP
                        Blue – Liberal
                        Orange – Nationals
                        Green – Greens
                        Pink - Independent
#AUSPOL AND FEDERAL POLITICIANS

degree 2+
@mentions/RTs by active
Federal politicians in
#auspol tweets

Black – journalist/MSM
Red – ALP
Blue – Liberal
Orange – Nationals
Green – Greens
Pink - Independent
#WAPOL




degree 5+
Black – journalist/MSM
Red – ALP
Blue – Liberal
Orange – Nationals
Green - Greens
#WAPOL AND WA POLITICIANS



                        degree 2+,
                        @mentions/RTs by active
                        WA state politicians in
                        #wapol tweets

                        Black – journalist/MSM
                        Red – ALP
                        Blue – Liberal
                        Orange – Nationals
                        Green - Greens
SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTARY

• 9 October: Julia Gillard’s misogyny and sexism speech
   – 1.9mil views on YouTube
   – International attention, heightened #auspol activity:

             25000

             20000

             15000

             10000

             5000

                 0
                     7/10/2012


                                 8/10/2012


                                             9/10/2012


                                                         10/10/2012


                                                                      11/10/2012


                                                                                   12/10/2012


                                                                                                13/10/2012


                                                                                                             14/10/2012
SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTARY

• Australian mainstream media interpretation of speech
  (and coverage of the story) at odds with international
  views, criticised by social media users:
      As anyone who has a Twitter account or a Facebook page has
      noticed, the media's interpretation of the Alan Jones' affair, or
      more especially, their interpretation of the Prime Minister's
      speech in Parliament about Mr Abbott's sexism, is rejected
      outright by many people. Social media has been full of people
      interpreting these events in ways that are at odds with the
      media's view. People are simply tired of any professional view
      that pretends to be authoritative, let alone definitive.
                                                  (Dunlop, 2012)
SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTARY
FURTHER OUTLOOK

• Event/issue-specific
   – Case studies within the different political contexts
   – Link-sharing, common resources
      • Overlap with tracking Australian news and opinion sites
      • Do #auspol users link to some sites more than others? News
        or opinion? Reflected in connections to journalist accounts?
• Replies and retweets, information flows
   – Across party affiliation, between different user groups
     (journalists, politicians), regions, themes
• Ongoing activity around political hashtags
http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
@snurb_dot_info
@jeanburgess
@_StephenH
@DrTNitins
@timhighfield
@cdtavijit

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#auspol, #qldpol, and #wapol: Twitter and the new Australian political commentariat

  • 1. #auspol, #qldpol, and #wapol: Twitter and the new Australian political commentariat Tim Highfield, Axel Bruns, and Stephen Harrington ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia t.highfield | a.bruns | s.harrington @ qut.edu.au @timhighfield | @snurb_dot_info | @_StephenH http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
  • 2. AUSTRALIAN POLITICS ONLINE • 2007 election campaign – Kevin 07, psephology blogs • Political blogs – Not widely taken up by politicians, confrontational relationship at times between bloggers and mainstream media – Similar relationship at times developed on Twitter • GrogsGate • Social media • Larger Australian userbase on Twitter than within blogosphere • Twitter for breaking politicial news (#spill)
  • 3. DISCUSSIONS IN THE BLOGOSPHERE • Australian political blogosphere organised less along party lines than around topics of interest – Economics, polling data, feminist issues – ‘Niche’ bloggers adding to debate by examining topics from the context of their own speciality subjects – Promoted and responded to by ‘A-list’ bloggers (including group blogs) covering politics in general (Highfield, 2011)
  • 4. POLITICAL DISCUSSION ON TWITTER • New gatekeepers on Twitter? – News and opinion circulated, critiqued, challenged on social media • Extension of gatewatching (Bruns, 2005) • Follow and respond directly to people creating news/shaping politics – 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
  • 5. AUSTRALIAN POLITICS AND TWITTER • Accounts established for sitting politicians – At Federal level, 146 of 226 members of Lower and Upper Houses present on Twitter (July 2012) – Accounts also for government departments, political parties, media releases • Hashtags for different political events/broadcasts: – #ausvotes, #ausdecides, #qldvotes – election campaigns – #qt, #waqt – Parliamentary Question Time – #qanda, #insiders – Q & A, Insiders political panel shows
  • 6. #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)
  • 7. TWITTER AND AUSTRALIAN POLITICS • Tracking three general political hashtags since January 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
  • 8. 10000 12000 14000 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 2012-Jan-15 2012-Jan-19 2012-Jan-23 2012-Jan-27 2012-Jan-31 2012-Feb-04 #AUSPOL 2012-Feb-08 2012-Feb-12 2012-Feb-16 2012-Feb-20 2012-Feb-24 ALP leadershiip spill 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 Craig Thomson 2012-May-06 2012-May-10 Budget 2012-May-14 2012-May-18 2012-May-22 2012-May-26 Craig Thomson 2012-May-30 – 1,002,451 tweets (15/01-04/07), 50,622 users 2012-Jun-03 2012-Jun-07 2012-Jun-11 2012-Jun-15 2012-Jun-19 2012-Jun-23 2012-Jun-27 Asylum seeker debate 2012-Jul-01 Carbon tax
  • 9. #AUSPOL – Highly active group of users within hashtag: • Top 1% users contribute 64% of tweets • 6 users responsible for 87,696 tweets 1200000 1000000 800000 600000 Sum of original tweets Sum of genuine @replies 400000 Sum of retweets 200000 0 all 50662 users users > 0% (>= 0 users > 90% (>= 14 users > 99% (>= 297 tweets; 45514 of tweets; 4639 of 50662 tweets; 510 of 50662 50662 users) users) users)
  • 10. REPRESENTATIVE LIMITS OF #AUSPOL • 13 April 2012: Sen. Bob Brown resigns as Greens leader – 11am 13 April 2012-midnight 14 April 2012: • Mentions of “Bob Brown”, “Christine Milne” #bobbrown, @SenatorBobBrown, @SenatorMilne: 13,028 tweets, 7311 users • Mentions of these keywords + #auspol: 1547 tweets, 924 users • Mentions of #auspol (all contexts): 6989 tweets, 2092 users – Bob Brown – 22.1% of #auspol tweets – #auspol – 11.9% of Bob Brown tweets – 8065 users – 1338 both Bob Brown + #auspol (16.6%)
  • 11. 0 1500 2000 2500 500 1000 15/01/2012 21/01/2012 27/01/2012 2/02/2012 8/02/2012 14/02/2012 20/02/2012 26/02/2012 • #qldpol 3/03/2012 9/03/2012 15/03/2012 State election 21/03/2012 27/03/2012 2/04/2012 8/04/2012 14/04/2012 20/04/2012 26/04/2012 2/05/2012 8/05/2012 14/05/2012 20/05/2012 26/05/2012 1/06/2012 7/06/2012 13/06/2012 19/06/2012 Civil partnerships bill amended 25/06/2012 1/07/2012 7/07/2012 13/07/2012 19/07/2012 25/07/2012 Government funding – 116,873 tweets (15/01-15/10), 9531 users 31/07/2012 6/08/2012 THE STATE LEVEL: QUEENSLAND 12/08/2012 18/08/2012 24/08/2012 30/08/2012 5/09/2012 11/09/2012 17/09/2012 23/09/2012 29/09/2012 Budget 5/10/2012 11/10/2012
  • 12. 0 100 200 300 400 600 500 15/01/2012 21/01/2012 27/01/2012 2/02/2012 8/02/2012 14/02/2012 20/02/2012 • #wapol 26/02/2012 3/03/2012 9/03/2012 15/03/2012 21/03/2012 27/03/2012 2/04/2012 Opposition leadership change 8/04/2012 14/04/2012 20/04/2012 26/04/2012 2/05/2012 8/05/2012 14/05/2012 20/05/2012 26/05/2012 Budget 1/06/2012 7/06/2012 13/06/2012 19/06/2012 25/06/2012 1/07/2012 7/07/2012 13/07/2012 19/07/2012 Treasurer resigns 25/07/2012 – 16,001 tweets (15/01-15/10), 2373 users 31/07/2012 6/08/2012 Cabinet reshuffle 12/08/2012 18/08/2012 24/08/2012 30/08/2012 5/09/2012 11/09/2012 17/09/2012 23/09/2012 29/09/2012 5/10/2012 11/10/2012 THE STATE LEVEL: WESTERN AUSTRALIA
  • 13. #AUSPOL AND FEDERAL POLITICIANS @mentions/RTs by active Federal politicians in #auspol tweets Black – journalist/MSM Red – ALP Blue – Liberal Orange – Nationals Green – Greens Pink - Independent
  • 14. #AUSPOL AND FEDERAL POLITICIANS degree 2+ @mentions/RTs by active Federal politicians in #auspol tweets Black – journalist/MSM Red – ALP Blue – Liberal Orange – Nationals Green – Greens Pink - Independent
  • 15. #WAPOL degree 5+ Black – journalist/MSM Red – ALP Blue – Liberal Orange – Nationals Green - Greens
  • 16. #WAPOL AND WA POLITICIANS degree 2+, @mentions/RTs by active WA state politicians in #wapol tweets Black – journalist/MSM Red – ALP Blue – Liberal Orange – Nationals Green - Greens
  • 17. SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTARY • 9 October: Julia Gillard’s misogyny and sexism speech – 1.9mil views on YouTube – International attention, heightened #auspol activity: 25000 20000 15000 10000 5000 0 7/10/2012 8/10/2012 9/10/2012 10/10/2012 11/10/2012 12/10/2012 13/10/2012 14/10/2012
  • 18. SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTARY • Australian mainstream media interpretation of speech (and coverage of the story) at odds with international views, criticised by social media users: As anyone who has a Twitter account or a Facebook page has noticed, the media's interpretation of the Alan Jones' affair, or more especially, their interpretation of the Prime Minister's speech in Parliament about Mr Abbott's sexism, is rejected outright by many people. Social media has been full of people interpreting these events in ways that are at odds with the media's view. People are simply tired of any professional view that pretends to be authoritative, let alone definitive. (Dunlop, 2012)
  • 20. FURTHER OUTLOOK • Event/issue-specific – Case studies within the different political contexts – Link-sharing, common resources • Overlap with tracking Australian news and opinion sites • Do #auspol users link to some sites more than others? News or opinion? Reflected in connections to journalist accounts? • Replies and retweets, information flows – Across party affiliation, between different user groups (journalists, politicians), regions, themes • Ongoing activity around political hashtags