Mining one week of Twitter. Tracing local networked publics in the Dutch Twittersphere

Daniela van Geenen, Piet Bakker, Mirko Tobias Schäfer, Erik Hekman, Jonas Moons, Thomas Boeschoten

Abstract


How does local engagement of publics in specific geographical regions manifest itself in the social media ecosystem Twitter? Many studies analyze Twitter use during events, high-impact incidents, or focus on particular groups represented on the platform (see e.g. case studies in Weller et al., 2014). However, little is known about how dynamics, network characteristics, and practices of local Twitterspheres unfold in everyday use. Our paper investigates the dynamics of these conversations by analyzing one week of Twitter use in the Netherlands. The aim of this paper is to reveal the dynamics between local Twitter networks, public institutions and other (professional) organizations, and media outlets providing news coverage on topics ranging from the national to the local context.

In view of our findings, this paper addresses three points of discussion providing empirical, theoretical, and epistemological insights. Firstly, valorizing data from Twitter outside the high-awareness events and below the threshold of trending topics, we are able to make statements concerning everyday use of Twitter in social interaction on a local level. Secondly, on a theoretical level, we can address these phenomena as forms of “citizen microbroadcasting” (Erickson, 2010, p. 1201). It provides the opportunity to draw from Habermas’ (1989) notion of the “public sphere” and explore its “structural transformation” in local terms, in the context and through the rise of social media. Thirdly, on an epistemological note, we address the issue of completeness and representation of Twitter data sets and critically review the possibilities and limitations of social media metrics.

Keywords


local publics, Twittersphere, societal dynamics, media practice, data critique

Full Text:

PDF