As part of our ongoing research on how Twitter is being used by scholars and the general public for networking and information dissemination, I am happy to announce the publication of two new papers which I co-authored with my collaborators at the University of Toronto, Dr. Barry Wellman and Dr. Yuri Takhteyev.
(Update: the “Geography of Twitter Networks”, was subsequently featured in an article written by Richard Florida, author of The Creative Class and Who’s Your City. The article is entitled “How Twitter Proves That Place Matters” appeared in the Atlantic magazine new Cities website.)
Gruzd, A., Wellman, B., & Takhteyev, Y. (2011). Imagining Twitter as an Imagined Community American Behavioral Scientist, 55 (10), 1294-1318 DOI: 10.1177/0002764211409378
The notion of “community” has often been caught between concrete social relationships and imagined sets of people perceived to be similar. The rise of the Internet has refocused our attention on this ongoing tension. The Internet has enabled people who know each other to use social media, from e-mail to Facebook, to interact without meeting physically. Into this mix came Twitter, an asymmetric microblogging service: If you follow me, I do not have to follow you. This means that connections on Twitter depend less on in-person contact, as many users have more followers than they know. Yet there is a possibility that Twitter can form the basis of interlinked personal communities—and even of a sense of community. This analysis of one person’s Twitter network shows that it is the basis for a real community, even though Twitter was not designed to support the development of online communities. Studying Twitter is useful for understanding how people use new communication technologies to form new social connections and maintain existing ones.
§ Takhteyev, Y., Gruzd, A., & Wellman, B. (2011). Geography of Twitter Networks Social Networks DOI: 10.1016/j.socnet.2011.05.006
Pre-print is availabe at: http://takhteyev.org/papers/Takhteyev-Gruzd-Wellman-2011.pdf
The paper examines the influence of geographic distance, national boundaries, language and frequency of air travel on the formation of social ties on Twitter, a popular micro-blogging website. Based on a large sample of publicly available Twitter data, our study shows that a substantial share of ties lies within the same metropolitan region, and that for ties between regional clusters, distance, national borders and language differences all predict Twitter ties. We find that the frequency of airline flights between the two parties is the best predictor of Twitter ties. This highlights the importance of looking at pre-existing ties between places and people.