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News via Voldemort: The role of parody and satire in topical discussions on Twitter

Paper presented at IR14, Denver, CO. 24 October 2013.

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News via Voldemort:
The role of parody and satire in
topical discussions on Twitter
Tim Highfield
ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
Queensland University of Technology | Curtin University
Brisbane, Australia | Perth, Australia
t.highfield @ qut.edu.au
@timhighfield
http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ | http://socialmedia.qut.edu.au
GUIDING QUESTIONS
• What is the role of parody/gimmick/humour accounts in
discussion of news?
• Do they act as bridges or form separated, disconnected
takes on news?
• Are the same roles carried out across multiple topics?
• How does topical content relate to these accounts‟
„usual‟ tweets?
#OVERLYHONESTMETHODS
• This research is a by-product of accumulated studies
into discussions on Twitter about politics, popular
culture, live broadcasts, sport, crises…
– An accidental paper, with impetus provided by serendipity
– Also a very exploratory paper, providing some initial
comments on some of the questions raised and ideas for
further exploration…
#OVERLYHONESTMETHODS
OVERVIEW
• Parody accounts and their ilk are “part of the fabric” of
Twitter (Vis, 2013)
– Three of 25 most-mentioned accounts discussing 2011 UK
riots on Twitter were fake/spoof accounts

• Neither new nor Twitter-specific, though
– Creation of MySpace accounts „as‟ fictional
characters, mixing the personal and the original text
(Booth, 2010)
– Gimmick accounts prevalent on message
boards, fora, comments sections
OVERVIEW
• Cultural context
– Creation of fake/parody accounts as a memetic practice on
Twitter
• Memetic: “extensive user engagement by way of creative
derivatives” (Shifman, 2012)

– Breaking news, cultural phenomena, gaffes, quickly
followed by accounts spoofing events
• Meta-meme/trope of Twitter?

• Not limited to any one field
– Political parodies well-established, but not the only fake
contributors to discussions on Twitter

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News via Voldemort: The role of parody and satire in topical discussions on Twitter

  • 1. News via Voldemort: The role of parody and satire in topical discussions on Twitter Tim Highfield ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology | Curtin University Brisbane, Australia | Perth, Australia t.highfield @ qut.edu.au @timhighfield http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ | http://socialmedia.qut.edu.au
  • 2. GUIDING QUESTIONS • What is the role of parody/gimmick/humour accounts in discussion of news? • Do they act as bridges or form separated, disconnected takes on news? • Are the same roles carried out across multiple topics? • How does topical content relate to these accounts‟ „usual‟ tweets?
  • 3. #OVERLYHONESTMETHODS • This research is a by-product of accumulated studies into discussions on Twitter about politics, popular culture, live broadcasts, sport, crises… – An accidental paper, with impetus provided by serendipity – Also a very exploratory paper, providing some initial comments on some of the questions raised and ideas for further exploration…
  • 5. OVERVIEW • Parody accounts and their ilk are “part of the fabric” of Twitter (Vis, 2013) – Three of 25 most-mentioned accounts discussing 2011 UK riots on Twitter were fake/spoof accounts • Neither new nor Twitter-specific, though – Creation of MySpace accounts „as‟ fictional characters, mixing the personal and the original text (Booth, 2010) – Gimmick accounts prevalent on message boards, fora, comments sections
  • 6. OVERVIEW • Cultural context – Creation of fake/parody accounts as a memetic practice on Twitter • Memetic: “extensive user engagement by way of creative derivatives” (Shifman, 2012) – Breaking news, cultural phenomena, gaffes, quickly followed by accounts spoofing events • Meta-meme/trope of Twitter? • Not limited to any one field – Political parodies well-established, but not the only fake contributors to discussions on Twitter
  • 7. (INITIAL) TYPOLOGY • Character-specific – e.g. Lord_Voldemort7 • Public figure-specific – Queen_UK, YourMateColin • Parodying an idea/stereotype of a type of person – NotTildaSwinton, MatureAge • Organisation/non-human – DeathStarPR, SarcasticRover, https://twitter.com/Exciting_Perth • Topic-specific (including character/figure/thing) – more short-lived? – Subiaco_Cat, Hoyts_Mouse, PerthMillipede, numerous Obama chair accounts… • Hoax – deliberately malicious • Role-playing • …
  • 8. METHODS • Exploratory study, for further development • A mixture of manual and automated data collection and analysis, covering multiple datasets since 2011 • For automated collection and analysis: – yourTwapperKeeper – Gawk scripts, Gephi (see Mapping Online Publics) • Augmented by manual capture
  • 10. GENERAL AND TOPICAL • Eurovision – the reach of @queen_uk: red nodes are those directly linked to @queen_uk; blue: @planet_jedward; green: @bbceurovision; yellow: @loreen_talhaoui; pink: @eurovision
  • 11. GENERAL AND TOPICAL • Armstrong (keyword dataset) (25-26 August) – some Lance Armstrong, death of Neil Armstrong: – red (@lord_voldemort7) – green (@nbcnightly)
  • 12. GENERAL AND TOPICAL • Tour de France – Presence of parody accounts for (Australian) presenters – Fostered by familiarity with broadcast – Tropes of the coverage, captive audience (three weeks of racing) – Topic-specific; limited non-cycling/sport coverage?
  • 13. TOPICALITY OF PARODY ACCOUNTS • Five months of tweets (May-October 2013) from @queen_uk, @lord_voldemort7, @deathstarpr
  • 14. TOPICALITY OF PARODY ACCOUNTS Lord_Voldemort7 Queen_UK DeathStarPR Original tweets 165 605 146 RTs of others 2 2 9 Replies 0 1 43 Total 167 608 198 Tweets per day 1.07 3.90 1.27
  • 15. TOPICALITY OF PARODY ACCOUNTS lord_voldemort7 queen_uk Topical HP Character-specific Trending Topical Self-promotion (web content) Sponsored Other self-promotion (shop) RT sponsored Promo deathstarpr RT StarWars reply Topical Self-promotion (web content) RT Trending MT Self-promotion (purchase)
  • 16. TOPICALITY OF PARODY ACCOUNTS Lord_Voldemort7 Queen_UK DeathStarPR n RTs (mean) Faves (mean) n RTs (mean) Faves (mean) n Topical 35 3982.71 1864.14 392 794.05 220.93 41 949.88 248.98 RT 2 2315.50 1611.50 2 139.00 53.50 9 733.67 128.00 Character-specific 66 2907.68 1595.73 143 554.74 168.45 88 609.00 234.61 Trending 41 2164.93 1114.71 2 335.50 140.50 1 95.00 55.00 MT Self-promo (web) 1 76.00 155.00 RTs (mean) Faves (mean) 109.45 42.37 13 27.31 34.46 17 97.71 50.41 1 14.00 13.00 17.00 Self-promo (shop) 49 23.00 43 5.28 10.09 703.20 168.20 Reply Sponsored 16 93.19 103.19 Other 6 2251.67 924.50 5
  • 17. TOPICALITY OF PARODY ACCOUNTS • Cross-over: – Celebrity and gossip: • Kim Kardashian and Kanye West named their child "North West". It's like you WANT us to destroy your planet. [1541 | 377] • One can confirm that the new Royal baby will not be called North West. This is mainly because William and Catherine are not morons. [4036 | 1061] • So I'm assuming that North West won't be a One Direction fan? [28424 | 11276] • If Prince William and Kate Middleton have a daughter and DON'T call her Princess Leia, they're wasting everybody's time. #RoyalBaby [1626 | 380]
  • 18. TOPICALITY OF PARODY ACCOUNTS • Cross-over: – Breaking news: • Text from Ed Miliband: "Delighted Catherine has joined labour. Together we will rebuild Britain" Absolute idiot. [8135 | 2057] • The half-blood prince has been born as the seventh month dies. #RoyalBaby [6464 | 2909] • Due to our govt shutdown, the following non-essential depts are closed: education, health, welfare. Planet exploding to continue as normal. [893 | 257] • American Government started to shut down. Not sure what the fuss is. Italian Government shut down about 40 years ago and no one's noticed. [2406 | 714] • Clearly this whole "shut down" is just the US government's way of hiding the dementor attacks. [5133 | 2089]
  • 19. TOPICALITY OF PARODY ACCOUNTS • Cross-over: – Geek and tech culture: • Just upgraded to #iOS7 and now our exhaust port force field is on the fritz. Oh well, what are the chances of Rebels attacking us n [636 | 222] • Dear most of the world, there will be a short break in leadership whilst one downloads iOS 7. This will take approximate seven years. EIIR [1610 | 503] • George R. R. Martin is avada kedavraing more people? He's about three deaths away from being called a Dark Lord. [2524 | 1102] • George R. R. Martin kills more people than the Death Star. #GameofThrones [1174 | 323] • One is not the next Dr Who. [1099 | 299] • Ben Affleck as Batman will be the opposite of "movie magic." That is "movie muggles.“ [1485 | 595]
  • 20. INITIAL POINTS/FURTHER DIRECTIONS • Topical coverage attracts more RTs/favourites than other comments – Extends audience? Appeals to more users than account‟s usual comments? • Thematic framing around subject of interest provides original take on news – encourages RTing in addition to/in place of news organisations? • Importance of humour to news coverage – type of event important, although an audience for humour/satire/black humour – see also comedians, for instance • Types of event vs. types of account – celebrity news (and trending topics) more common fodder than politics?
  • 21. INITIAL POINTS/FURTHER DIRECTIONS • Limited engagement with other accounts? – DeathStarPR the exception here, with 40+ @replies over the five months – This applies too to other parody accounts – despite there being accounts for other royals/HP characters, the Queen and Voldemort do not engage with them • DeathStarPR mentions/RTs @JerkSuperman, but this account is by the same people? – Parody operates in a bubble? • Participating in social discussions (e.g. #eurovision) and attracting/encouraging RTs, but not responding to audience or surroundings?
  • 22. INITIAL POINTS/FURTHER DIRECTIONS • Parody as meta-commentary – Established parody accounts dismissing the inevitable influx of new parody accounts in response to breaking news (staying in character as the „real‟ (fake) subject?) • Impact of reporting on Twitter activity by news outlets – Drives spikes in RTing/favouriting? – Aggregating humorous tweets in response to news stories may lead to increased audience for these tweets/accounts • Getting more coverage and reaction in this way may encourage further topical commentary? (albeit brief engagement with topics)