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Tuesday, July 12 • 10:31 - 12:00
Мapping and understanding affective publics on Twitter: Refugees and the Paris Attacks

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG02, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
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  • Eugenia Siapera, Dublin City University, Ireland
  • Moses Boudourides, University of Patras, Greece
  • Ioanna Iliadi, Open University of Cyrpus, Greece

Within an increasingly hostile context for refugees and following the debates on the role of social media in political participation, the proposed contribution examines how Twitter, as a public social medium participates in debating and framing the refugee crisis during additional crisis events and breaking news, such as the Paris and Brussels attacks. Although there was no corroborated evidence of any refugee involvement in the terrorist attacks, on Twitter the refugee crisis quickly became articulated with the attacks. Focusing on the two events in Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in March 2016, the proposed article examines the co-articulations of terrorism and forced migration, but also the refutations and oppositional views that emerge, and the other kinds of stories told using the same hashtags. Additionally, the analysis will examine the kinds of publics that are emerging around these stories, in order to understand how publics and stories on refugees and terrorists come together on Twitter. 

Empirically, this is a big data study, relying on harvested tweets using relevant hashtags in the two week period before and after the terrorist attacks. The analysis looks at the different co-articulated hashtags and keywords, as well as at the replies, shares and favourites of the various tweets, in order to understand the kinds of stories told at the time. The analysis will include a more detailed discourse analysis of the most shared and favourited tweets. Finally, the analysis will include geotagging and mapping of the self-ascribed identity profiles, which will provide a more detailed understanding of who participates in the making and dissemination of stories and the networked publics that emerge.  

Theoretically, the paper will make use of two constructs: Nick Couldry’s (2008) digital storytelling and Zizi Papacharissi’s (2015) affective publics. However, we argue that this body of work prioritises the dimension of the personal and connective element, but overlook the impetus for this connection, which we argue lies in the material world, including the historical material world and the digital material world. While digital storytelling and affective publics take into account the digital material, i.e. the digital infrastructures and architectures, they overlook or bracket the ways in which these are mapped onto material dimensions and experiences outside and beyond those on social media. The paper assumes a historical materialist approach which looks at the ways in which struggles for scarce material resources become entangled in storytelling and affective investment in the refugee crisis. Moreover, what is at stake here goes beyond a contribution to ‘soft structures of feeling’, as affects may be usurped by the rising right wing parties in Europe. It therefore becomes crucial to identify and explicitly link the material to the affective and to the digital.  

Tuesday July 12, 2016 10:31 - 12:00 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG02 Goldsmiths University, Building 2