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How long is a tweet? Mapping dynamic conversation networks on Twitter using Gawk and Gephi

By Axel Bruns


Twitter is now well established as the world’s second most important social media platform, after Facebook. Its 140-character updates are designed for brief messaging, and its network structures are kept relatively flat and simple: messages from users are either public and visible to all (even to unregistered visitors using the Twitter website), or private and visible only to approved ‘followers’ of the sender; there are no more complex definitions of degrees of connection (family, friends, friends of friends) as they are available in other social networks. Over time, Twitter users have developed simple, but effective mechanisms for working around these limitations: ‘#hashtags’, which enable the manual or automatic collation of all tweets containing the same #hashtag, as well allowing users to subscribe to content feeds that contain only those tweets which feature specific #hashtags; and ‘@replies’, which allow senders to direct public messages even to users whom they do not already follow. This paper documents a methodology for extracting public Twitter activity data around specific #hashtags, and for processing these data in order to analyse and visualize the @reply networks existing between participating users – both overall, as a static network, and over time, to highlight the dynamic structure of @reply conversations. Such visualizations enable us to highlight the shifting roles played by individual participants, as well as the response of the overall #hashtag community to new stimuli – such as the entry of new participants or the availability of new information. Over longer timeframes, it is also possible to identify different phases in the overall discussion, or the formation of distinct clusters of preferentially interacting participants

Topics: 200102 Communication Technology and Digital Media Studies, web 2.0, social networking, research methodology, media studies, communications studies, computer-mediated communciation
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.1080/1369118X.2011.635214
OAI identifier:

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