Digital Methods and SocialMedia AnalyticsJean Burgess, Axel Bruns, and Darryl WoodfordMedia Ecologies Project, CCIQueensland University of Technology@jeanburgess | @snurb_dot_info | @dpwoodfordhttp://mappingonlinepublics.net/
DIGITAL METHODS…?• Datagathering• Processing• Analysis• Re-presentation• Materiality and ‘nature’ of the digital
‘BIG DATA’ & DIGITAL METHODS• Big Data as currency across the sciences and social sciences• Business intelligence & ‘data markets’ (including social media & onlinebehavioral data).• Computational social science – e.g. MSR NYC; epidemiology; election &stock market prediction• ‘Computational turn’ in new humanities research: shift from computationaltools to a new computational paradigm, changing the ontologies andepistemologies of humanities research (Berry, 2012).• Eg shift from ‘close’ to ‘distant’ reading (Moretti); ‘software studies’ (egFuller, 2008) and ANT approaches to new media platforms;• From ‘virtual’/trad social research methods to ‘natively’ digital methods todiagnose patterns of social change (Rogers, 2009).
The map is not the territory(Korzybski)…and certainly not thedestination
UNDERSTANDING TWITTER PUBLICS• #hashtags:– Useful coordinating mechanism for core discussion– Relatively easy to capture and analyse– Fails to capture non-hashtagged tweets about the topic– Good case studies, but very little comparative work to date• National / global Twittersphere maps:– Crucial contextual baseline for #hashtag case studies– Slow and laborious data gathering process, never complete– Very long-term perspective, beyond most funded projects– Indispensable for study of Twitter as a public space
BEYOND HASHTAGS Overlapping publics / networks– What determines their formation and dissolution?– How do they interact and interweave?– How are they interleaved with the wider media ecology?– How do they represent the Twitter component of wider societal publics?• ad hoc publics,often rapidly formingand dissolvingmacro:#hashtags• personal publics,accumulating slowlyand relatively stablemeso:follower networks• interpersonalcommunication,ephemeralmicro:@replies(Bruns & Moe, 2013)
THE AUSTRALIAN TWITTERSPHERE?Follower/followee network:~120,000 Australian Twitter users(of ~950,000 known accounts by early 2012)colour = outdegree, size = indegree
A NEW MILLION• 1 million new account IDs (~ 422.000 existing accounts)• Newly registered on 18/19 Mar. 2013, 16:00-01:00 UTC ( 1-1.5m new users/day)
TWITTER AS A PROXY• Tweets, and Twitter Users, are actually informative aboutother platforms.• While not an alternative to application specific APIs, itcan provide an approximation.• Overall pattern / content of uploaded Vine videos (thatare shared via Twitter: ~50%).• Mirrors YouTubers fairly well (similar start date, ‘Pro’YouTubers use Twitter/FB to reduce reliance on YT)
TWITTER AS A PROXY• While not an alternative to application specific APIs, itcan provide an approximation of growth rates and userprofiles.• Overall pattern / content of uploaded Vine videos (thatare shared via Twitter: ~50%).• Mirrors YouTubers fairly well (similar start date, ‘Pro’YouTubers use Twitter/FB to reduce reliance on YT)
TWITTER AS A PROXY: YOUTUBERS:@CHARLESTRIPPY (ID VS. ACCESSION #)This set of IDs wereapparently neverallocated.Prank vs Prank
TWITTER AS A PROXY: YOUTUBERS --@CHARLESTRIPPY (ACC # VS DATE)PrankvsPrank?CTFxC Wedding
TWITTER AS A PROXY: YOUTUBERS-- @COREYVIDAL (ACC # VS DATE)CTFxC WeddingI’m Vlogging Here Indiegogo& Filming?
PRACTICAL CHALLENGES• Data access, platform volatility• Research ethics– textual research or ‘human subjects’ research?– Consequences of public/personal convergence, datamarkets/open data movement, and ‘context collapse’ (boyd)– Cross-national and cross-disciplinary differences, need for publicdiscussion
PRACTICAL CHALLENGES• Better integration with existing social and cultural theory& empirical work– Mixed methods, especially integration of qualitative andethnographic approaches• Propagation and regularisation of methods (andconsequences for research training)– ‘Code literacy’ sufficient to engage with the materialconsequences of software platforms
‘BIG DATA’ AND RESEARCH SKILLS• Researchers need interdisciplinary skill sets:– Media & communication to understand the media environment– Maths and statistics to deal with ‘big data’– Computer science to develop tools to process social media data– Communication design to develop effective visualisations– Writing and communication skills to communicate the results– …– Where do we find them?(few people have such a diverse range of skills)– How do we support their work?(we’re only just developing our methods and tools)– What is our strategy for dealing with precarity?(sudden API changes, changing fortunes of platforms, …)