See a recent blog post about our research on Political Polarization on Social Media published on the Policy and Internet Blog.
See a recent blog post about our research on Political Polarization on Social Media published on the Policy and Internet Blog.
Title: Cartography of Iran’s Online Publics: Mapping political landscape of Persian Twitter during Iran’s presidential election 2013
by Emad Khazraee, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication, the University of Pennsylvania.
Date: Monday, October 20, 3:00-4:00pm (EDT)
- Ryerson University, Ted Rogers School of Management
- 55 Dundas St. West, Toronto, ON Canada,
- Room TRS 3-164 (9th floor, across the elevators),
Abstract: New information and communication technologies (ICTs) have transformed our societies dramatically. New ICTs also contributed to creation of online public spaces under repressive cultures. In the past few years, we witnessed how new ICTs were central to any debate of socio-political movements around the world form Tehran to Tahir and form Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Central. Social media and social networking sites were cited as the new catalysts of social change in these contexts. However, still controversies exist about the role new ICTs played in these movements. Studying these online spaces becomes a challenge considering the pressure of repressive cultural environments. In such environments, accessing users freely is not possible in most cases. Moreover, the scale and complexity of data requires employing multiple methods to achieve a more nuanced understanding of online publics. To overcome these challenges and to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of the online public environments in Iran, Khazraee and his colleagues at the Center for Global Communication Studies at University of Pennsylvania started a project for the Cartography of Iran’s online publics. The goal of the project is collecting empirical evidence that helps us to achieve a high resolution image of public online environments in Iran. As part of this project, he has conducted research on the Twitter use among Iranian users during Iran’s 2013 presidential election. Findings of this study illustrate how political landscape of Persian Twitter is different from Persian blogosphere (Kelly & Etling, 2008). The study, also, reveals the structural difference in information diffusion networks between Persian and English and the differences in the role of various political communities and their influence on the larger communication network.
Bio: Emad Khazraee is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. in Information Studies form College of Computing and Informatics, Drexel University. His research is formed around the interplay between social and technical phenomena, and his doctoral research focused on knowledge production processes in data-intensive, collaborative and multidisciplinary communities of practice.
In another research trajectory, he is looking at the cultural differences in new media use and the relationship between social change and repressive cultural environments. Relying on socio-technical approaches to social media studies and conceptual frameworks developed in Science Technology Studies (STS), he is exploring the role of Social Networking Sites (SNS) in the creation of virtual public spaces.
Emad also received his Master’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Tehran. In addition to practicing as an architect in Iran, he worked in the preservation of historical monuments and sites before joining the Encyclopaedia of Iranian Architectural History (EIAH) in 2006, where he was the director of the ICT Department (2006-2009), with the goal of creating infrastructure for meaningful integration of information technology into cultural heritage practices.
by Anatoliy Gruzd, Ryerson University and Jeffrey Roy, Dalhousie University
This article investigates political polarization in social media by undertaking social network analysis of a sample of 5,918 tweets posted by 1,492 Twitter users during the 2011 Canadian Federal Election. On the one hand, we observed a clustering effect around shared political views among supporters of the same party in the Twitter communication network, suggesting that there are pockets of political polarization on Twitter. At the same time, there was evidence of cross-ideological connections and exchanges, which may facilitate open, cross-party, and cross-ideological discourse, and ignite wider debate and learning as they are observed by nonaffiliated voters and the media at large. However, what appeared to be far less likely was any increased willingness or tendency for committed partisans to shift their allegiances as a result of their Twitter engagements, and we postulate that Twitter usage at present is likely to further embed partisan loyalties during electoral periods rather than loosen them; a dynamic that would seemingly contribute to political polarization.
Gruzd, A. and Roy, J. (2014), Investigating Political Polarization on Twitter: A Canadian Perspective. Policy & Internet, 6: 28–45. doi: 10.1002/1944-2866.POI354
Please join us on Tuesday, July 23, 1-2pm at the Social Media Lab (Faculty of Management, ROWE, Suite 2010, Room 2021) for two great talks at Dal this week. The speakers are Dr, Nesrine Zemirli from King Saud University (Saudi Arabia) and Elizabeth Dubois from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), University of Oxford (UK). Both scholars are in Halifax this summer as guests of the Social Media Lab.
Dr. Zemirli holds a PhD in Computer Science from IRIT at Paul Sabatier University Toulouse III, France, specializing in the personalization of information access. She worked as a Lecturer and Researcher at various French Universities (ISEP, Paul Sabatier University Toulouse III, School of Engineering the INSA of Toulouse, Sciences Socials University Toulouse I and the University Center for Training and Research Jean-François Champollion of Albi, France). She also worked as a Research Engineer and project web manager in a French and international business company (Amadeus SAS, Auditek SAS, Solimobile, Milestone SAS).
Before joining the OII in 2011 as an MSc student, she completed a BA, Hons. Specialization in Communication at the University of Ottawa, Canada. As a Killam Fellow through the Fulbright Foundation (Canada) in 2010 she studied at American University in Washington, DC. In September, Ms. Dubois will also be presenting her paper (with Devin Gaffney) entitled “Identifying the opinion leader: Influence, Twitter, and Canadian Politics” at the 2013 Social Media & Society Conference.
Anatoliy Gruzd, Dalhousie University
This study explores the implications of how user interface elements affect the types of messages that are produced as well as the likelihood that, and extent to which, those messages are spread within an online social system such as Twitter.com, a popular online service for sharing short messages. The current paper explores these issues by studying the dissemination patterns of emotional-type messages among Twitter users through automated techniques, coupled with observations from a survey of Twitter users about their willingness to produce or forward messages containing different types of emotional tone. The results show that Twitter users post more positive messages (tweets) than negative, and that positive tweets are 3 times more likely to be forwarded than negative tweets. The findings also suggest that the Twitter user interface may be partially responsible for this (i.e., the interface reduces the likelihood that negative messages will be posted or retweeted). To enable a wider range of discourse on Twitter and to reduce the need for Twitter users to self-censor their tweets, the paper concludes with a potential design solution that will give Twitter users more control over who will receive their tweets, and outlines a future study to evaluate such an interface.
Gruzd, A. (2013). Emotions in the Twitterverse and Implications for User Interface Design, AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction 5(1):42-56. Available at http://aisel.aisnet.org/thci/vol5/iss1/4
Every day, more environmentalists are utilizing social media tools, such as Twitter. Despite this increase, little is known about environmentalists’ use of Twitter. This study focuses on how Twitter is used by environmentalists to discuss a current Canadian environmental issue: the Northern Gateway Pipeline. To answer this question, I conducted a text analysis of the Twitter hashtag #tarsands in spring 2012. This blog post provides a summary of the preliminary results from Phase 1 of my research, the text analysis.
Environmentalists are turning to Twitter more and more, and they are doing so for three reasons. First, Twitter improves access to information. For example, in February 2012, Greenpeace requested a federal document on the Northern Gateway Pipeline. The document identified adversaries and allies of the proposed project. Specifically, environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) and First Nations were labelled as adversaries, while the oil industry was labelled as an ally. Greenpeace shared this controversial document on Twitter, and as a result, the document reached thousands of people. Second, Twitter increases the number and diversity of voices in the discussion on the Northern Gateway Pipeline. For example, a recent protest held in Victoria, BC (Defend Our Coast), garnered thousands of supporters by actively promoting the protest event on Twitter. Third, Twitter provides a new public space for discussion on environmental issues. Traditionally, discussions on environmental issues are dominated by government, and then echoed by mainstream media. However, Twitter allows other groups, such as environmentalists, to share their opinions without passing them through government and/or mainstream media filters. Thus, environmentalists are actively using Twitter because: (1) it improves access to information, (2) it increases the number and diversity of voices, and (3) it provides a new space for discussion. Yet, it remains unclear how environmentalists are using Twitter.
To answer this question, this study used Netlytic – a web based system for automated text analysis and the discovery of social networks – to collect and analyze Twitter messages on the Northern Gateway Pipeline. The messages, known as tweets, were collected from January 24th, 2012 to February 24th, 2012, inclusive. A total of 12,815 tweets, containing the hashtag #tarsands, were gathered during this time period. To analyze the content of these messages, a number of visualizations were developed.
After analyzing the messages, it was found that Twitter is predominantly used by environmentalists to: (1) disseminate information and (2) to organize action on the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
First, Netlytic was used to examine the most frequently used terms on the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Figure 1 displays the ten most frequently used terms in Twitter messages on the pipeline. The most common term was “RT.” Specifically, the bar at the bottom of the graph (with over 6,000 instances), represents re-tweets (RT). This is significant because it means that approximately 50 percent of the 12,815 messages on the Northern Gateway Pipeline are RTs. In particular, this may indicate that Twitter is used as a method to spread information and updates amongst environmentalists.
It is also interesting to note which tweets are re-tweeted the most often. For example, Naomi Klein, (@NaomiAKlein) a prominent New York Times columnist, sent out a tweet on February 11, 2012 that read: “Since Harper is using adorable pandas to sell his #tarsands pipeline, he should be pelted with teddy bears everywhere he goes.” Her message was re-tweeted a total of 186 times. This could demonstrate that Klein’s use of humour and her high number of followers led to a rapid uptake of the Twitter message. Torgerson (2000) refers to this concept as “performative green politics,” which includes the use of humour, to create an element of play in political debates.
Figure 2 Content of Twitter messages on the Northern Gateway Pipeline
Second, Netlytic was used to examine the content of the Twitter messages on the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Figure 2 shows the content of the Twitter messages. It was found that a high number of Twitter messages contained links. Specifically, based on a sample of every tenth Twitter message (n=1280), it was found that over 50 percent of the messages contained links to news articles, websites, petitions, and videos. Merry (2011) notes that: “increasingly [environmental] interest groups are taking advantage of Twitter by posting action alerts or even links back to their websites” (215).
In addition, it was found that a number of messages included links to online petitions and websites with information regarding protest events, such as the Defend Our Coast protest. Hence, based on the content of the messages, it is demonstrated that environmentalists use Twitter to share information (i.e., news articles, websites, and videos) and to organize actions (i.e., petitions and protests).
Figure 3 Northern Gateway Pipeline posts over time
Third, Netlytic was used to determine when most of the tweets on the Northern Gateway Pipeline were sent. Figure 3 shows two main spikes between January 24 and February 24, 2012 (the spike on January 18, 2012 was excluded because it was outside the research timeframe). The first spike was on February 13, 2012 and the second spike was on February 22, 2012. To understand the cause of the spikes, the Twitter messages from February 13 and 22 were examined.
On February 13, 2012 the spike was primarily caused by a petition circulating on a Canadian wolf cull. In particular, the National Wildlife Federation (@NWF) circulated an online petition asking individuals to oppose the pipeline because wolves would be poisoned if the pipeline project were to move forward. While the second spike, on February 24, 2012, was the result of the European Union Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) vote. In particular, online petitions were circulated to raise awareness about the EU vote whether to label oil from the Canadian oil sands as a “dirty” form of oil. Hence, it was found that there is a correlation between a spike in the number of tweets and the circulation of online environmental petitions.
Based on the preliminary results, three findings were revealed. First, it was found that there was a very high number of RTs. In particular, almost 50 percent of the tweets sent on the Northern Gateway Pipeline were RTs. Second, it was found that a majority of the tweets contained links to news articles, websites, petitions, and videos. Finally, it was found that there was a correlation between the circulation of online petitions and the number of tweets on the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Based on these findings, it was determined that Twitter is predominantly used by environmentalists to: (1) disseminate information and (2) organize action. This suggests that Twitter is actively used by environmentalists to move beyond the government and mainstream media filters to raise their own voices and to spread their own messages about environmental issues. Thus, environmentalists are no longer confined to simply waving banners and yelling through megaphones; they have gone online
Although these preliminary findings are a good starting point to understand how environmentalists are using Twitter, additional research is still required. Consequently, a social network analysis (Phase 2) and semi-structured interviews (Phase 3) were conducted to determine: who is tweeting on the Northern Gateway Pipeline and if there is a Twitter “community” on the pipeline.