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Tuesday, July 12 • 10:31 - 12:00
Everyday Socio-Political Talk in Twitter Timelines: A Longitudinal Approach to Social Media Analytics

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

Contributors:
  • Phillip Brooker, University of Bath, United Kingdom
  • John Vines, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
  • Julie Barnett, University of Bath, United Kingdom
  • Tom Feltwell, Northumbria University, United Kingdom
  • Shaun Lawson, Northumbria University, United Kingdom

Background

Increasingly, social media spaces are understood by researchers to be a valuable site of everyday politically-relevant discussions. However, qualitative usages of social media data are typically undertaken with existing tools and methods developed for more ‘traditional’ tools and methods (i.e. thematic analysis and content analysis and so on). This, we argue, misses an opportunity to develop new methods which may be more tightly attuned to the idiosyncrasies of such data. Accordingly this paper aims to provide a means of drawing on and working with such idiosyncrasies, demonstrating the value of doing with reference to an empirical case.

Objective 

Building on previous work looking at how everyday discussions around social welfare issues arise on Twitter around the broadcast of a TV show (Benefits Street) (Brooker et al, 2015), we seek to explore the possibilities arising from capturing an atypical slice of Twitter data (i.e. whole timelines) and treating those data with an atypical analytic approach (i.e. investigating timeline narratives longitudinally). Hence, this paper will dually comment on both the empirical case at hand, and the methods requirements worked out through the course of undertaking this work.

Methods

We captured timeline data of 2581 Twitter users tweeting using the ‘official’ #BenefitsStreet hashtag during the broadcasts of both series of the programme (January 2014 and May 2015), amounting to 6,260,444 tweets in total. We undertake an exploratory analysis of an arbitrarily selected subset of user timelines within the master dataset, concentrating on the pervasion of welfare discussion throughout these users’ timelines between the two series’ of Benefits Street, as well as drawing out other themes and topics that motivate these tweeters to tweet.

Results

The study elaborates on how socio-political talk on Twitter fits in with tweeters’ everyday talk around a range of different interests and topics. This study also demonstrates the potential for longitudinal analysis of timeline narratives as an innovative qualitative approach to social media data, which can tap into the depth of meaning that such data may hold for those who produce it.

Future Work

The present study stands as a first exploratory step in the analysis of the full dataset of 6,260,444 tweets, also providing more generalizable methodological grounding on which to base the idea of longitudinal research with social media timeline data. However, the complexity of applying this approach to data of this kind also requires further thought and discussion around the development of scalable computational tools for assisting qualitative researchers in the handling of such large-scale data. The present paper points the way towards solutions for both of these problems.

References

Brooker, P., Vines, J., Sutton, S., Barnett, J., Feltwell, T. and Lawson, S. (2015). Debating poverty porn on Twitter: Social media as a place for everyday socio-political talk. CHI ’15 Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 3177-3186. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702291 

Tuesday July 12, 2016 10:31 - 12:00
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2

Attendees (7)