…and then the world

the 2016 that was

Jan
06

2016 was a weird old year, to put it mildly – and that’s without considering Brexit, Trump, the ongoing rise of extremism, unrest and turmoil and crises, political inactivity on major issues, and all the celebrity deaths (not just Bowie)… Personally, 2016 didn’t feel like the most productive year, and there was a lot going on behind the scenes that contributed to that — but, looking at the round-up for the year, it doesn’t seem that bad overall. Obviously the book finally coming out was a major achievement for 2016, but there was also a lot of progress with the visual social media research I’ve been doing, especially on GIFs:

 

Published in 2016

 

Books

Social Media and Everyday Politics

 

Chapters

Tim Highfield and Axel Bruns: ‘Compulsory Voting, Encouraged Tweeting? Australian Elections and Social Media’; Axel Bruns and Tim Highfield: ‘Is Habermas on Twitter? Social Media and the Public Sphere’ – both in The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics

Axel Bruns and Tim Highfield: ‘May the best Tweeter win: The Twitter strategies of key campaign accounts in the 2012 US election’ – in Die US-Präsidentschaftswahl 2012: Analysen der Politik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft

 

Articles

Tim Highfield and Tama Leaver: Instagrammatics and digital methods: studying visual social media, from selfies and GIFs to memes and emoji (Communication Research and Practice)

Tama Leaver and Tim Highfield: Visualising the ends of identity: pre-birth and post-death on Instagram (Information, Communication & Society)

+ 2015 publication as online-first but now out with 2016 page numbers: ‘News via Voldemort: Parody accounts in topical discussions on Twitter’ (New Media & Society)

 

Other writing

‘Covering the election beyond our memes: what role for visual politics and social media?’ (The Conversation)

‘Waiving (hash)flags: Some thoughts on Twitter hashtag emoji’ (Medium)

 

 

Talks + presentations

‘On (the) loop: The animated GIF and cultural logics of repetition’ (Theorizing the Web, New York City, April 2016) [view this talk on YouTube]
‘Social Media and Everyday Politics’ (Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Programme, Oxford, July 2016)
Tim Highfield and Kate M. Miltner, ‘Interrogating the reaction GIF: Making meaning by repurposing repetition’ (Social Media and Society, London, July 2016)
‘The politics of info-GIF-ics: Animated maps and graphs on everyday social media’ (Culture and Politics of Data Visualisation, Sheffield, October 2016)
Tim Highfield and Peta Mitchell, ‘Ambient geodata and algorithmic surveillance’ (Automating the Everyday symposium, Brisbane, December 2016)
Tim Highfield and Kate M. Miltner, ‘The Trumping of the political GIF: Visual social media for political commentary in the 2016 US election’ (Crossroads, Sydney, December 2016)
‘Smashed mouths: Internet cultures and the embrace and subversion of nostalgia’ (Crossroads, Sydney, December 2016)

+

The conceptual challenges of perpetual motion: Challenges of studying looping visual social media‘ – poster presentation (ICA Visual Communication pre-conference, Fukuoka, June 2016)

+

Tim Highfield, Kate M. Miltner, Amy Johnson, and R. Stuart Geiger, ‘Playing with the rules’ fishbowl (AoIR2016, Berlin, October 2016)

 

 

Media

July 2016: ABC Radio National – Drive with Patricia Karvelas, ‘Social Campaign: poll selfies, Greens on Grindr and Twitter investigates Kelly O’Dwyer’ (live interview)
June 2016: Washington Post, ‘The mesmerizing lost art of the 10-hour YouTube loop, 2011’s weirdest video trend’ by Abby Ohlheiser (interview)
May 2016: ABC Gold Coast – Breakfast, ‘How do political memes affect the polls?’ (live interview)

 

 

Workshops

Tim Highfield and Tama Leaver: Instagrammatics for 2016 CCI Digital Methods Summer School
Bots for QUT DMRC workshop series

 

 

1 prize-winning GIF

 

Get elected!
‘Don’t get mad, get elected’ for GIF IT UP! 2016

 

 

around the world


37 flights (213298 km, or, >5x around the world; 11 days 19:13 flight time) + long-distance trains
six countries (Australia, USA, Germany, UK, France, Japan)

new article (+ bonus!): news via Voldemort – on Twitter parody accounts

Mar
20

Fresh off the online-first version of the press, I have a journal article out with New Media & Society: ‘News via Voldemort: Parody accounts in topical discussions on Twitter’. The print version will come out at some point in the future, so final bibliographic information will be added later, but for now you can access the article at the NM&S site.

This paper is the full version of early research I presented in October 2013 at IR14the slides for which are here. I am really excited about this finished article, for a few reasons: to explain more, I’ve tried something different (and, full disclosure, overly-honest again (warning: TMI ahead)). I’ve prepared a recording which, in addition to including the audio from the original conference presentation, also provides a little bit of background and explanation for this research (and especially its significance for me at this point). If you’re interested in checking out this bonus material, you can listen here (or right/ctrl+click to download):

 

As for the publication itself, the full article is here, and here’s the abstract:

Parody accounts are prevalent on Twitter, offering irreverent interpretations of public figures, fictional characters and more. These accounts post comments framed within the context of their fictional universes or stereotypes of their subjects, responding in-character to topical events. This article positions parody accounts as a ritualised social media practice, an extension of fan practices and irreverent Internet culture. By providing a typology of parody accounts and analysing the topicality of selected parody accounts’ tweets, the research examines how these accounts contribute to topical discussions. In-character framing of topical comments allows parody accounts to offer original interpretations of breaking news that receive more attention than their other tweets. The presence and longevity of parody accounts underline the importance of humour on social media, including within news and topical coverage.

Highfield, T. (2015). News via Voldemort: Parody accounts in topical discussions on Twitter. New Media & Society (online first). doi: 10.1177/1461444815576703

 

Thanks again to everyone who gave feedback and suggestions on this paper as it developed over the last while, from the IR14 submission reviews to the conference audience to the journal reviewers. If you’d like to ask anything about this research – or can’t access the article through your institution &c., feel free to get in touch!

new article: Instagram research methods, hashtags, ethics, and privacy

Jan
07

Let’s kick 2015 off with a new publication: the latest (January 2015) issue of First Monday contains ‘A methodology for mapping Instagram hashtags’, a new article by Tama Leaver and myself, which sets out the various methodological, conceptual, and ethical considerations which have been guiding our work into the Ends of Identity (as featured in a few presentations last year).

The full article is here – it’s open access, and CC-licensed, so go crazy (well, -ish). And here’s the abstract:

While social media research has provided detailed cumulative analyses of selected social media platforms and content, especially Twitter, newer platforms, apps, and visual content have been less extensively studied so far. This paper proposes a methodology for studying Instagram activity, building on established methods for Twitter research by initially examining hashtags, as common structural features to both platforms. In doing so, we outline methodological challenges to studying Instagram, especially in comparison to Twitter. Finally, we address critical questions around ethics and privacy for social media users and researchers alike, setting out key considerations for future social media research.

Highfield, T., & Leaver, T. (2015). A methodology for mapping Instagram hashtags. First Monday, 20(1), http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5563/4195

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i1.

 

2014, the kind-of-lost year

Nov
20

A year has gone by, somehow, and I completely neglected to update this space with what’s been happening. It’s been an odd twelve months, rather transitional (which is to be expected), sometimes absolutely brilliant, other times not-so-fantastic – there have been some personal issues over the last year, which has made 2014 feel like a not-particularly successful time, but you know what? It’s actually been quite productive, bizarrely, and I’ve really appreciated how amazing my friends and colleagues are, during some tough times of my own creation.

Anyway, since I never actually announced it on here: 2014 started with accepting an offer of a post-doctoral position working with Axel Bruns on his Future Fellowship project around intermedia news flows and social media, and so in April I moved back to Brisbane to work on campus at QUT once more and be more of a part of the Social Media Research Group. I’ve been working on that project and a few others (as noted below) throughout 2014 – but brace yourselves, a twist is coming.

There has also been a lot of travel (I write this from Munich, where Axel and I are participating in the latest round of workshops with our colleagues at LMU), and conferencing (including some truly awesome conferences with wonderful people in Amsterdam and Daegu especially), so even though it feels like I haven’t done much this year (and I’ve presented fewer papers than I might normally) it’s been a very busy time. So, here we go, the collected outputs for 2014 across projects and themes:

 

Mapping Movements

Mapping Movements has had a quiet year in terms of new case studies, but Sky Croeser and I have been working on writing up and presenting our research so far. Our first article from the project, covering our first case study on Occupy Oakland, came out in March: ‘Occupy Oakland and #oo: Uses of Twitter within the Occupy movement’, published in First Monday.

Meanwhile, our second case study, on the Greek antifascist movement and its activities in March and April 2013 (based on fieldwork by Sky and digital data capture during this period), formed the basis of a presentation by Sky at the Citizen Lab summer school, and a paper Sky presented at the Social Media and Society conference in Toronto in September:

 

We also have a couple of additional papers currently under review from Mapping Movements, with more updates to follow hopefully! Sky’s book also came out this year, and you should totally check it out!

 

The Ends of Identity

This year also saw the first outputs from the work Tama Leaver and I have been doing around identity – particularly pre-birth and post-death – on social media, focusing initially on Instagram. We’ve been developing new methods and dealing with methodological and ethical questions with this research, which were the subjects of our first presentations.

In March, we presented our preliminary methodological work at the Digital Humanities Australasia conference in Perth:

 

Then, in July, Tama presented the conceptual and methodological outline for the project at ANZCA in Melbourne (while I was still en route to the conference, having been delayed by flight problems):

 

As with Mapping Movements, this project has papers under review and currently being drafted, so there will be more happening in 2015 – especially given what else is coming next year!

 

Social media and politics

The big news in this aspect of my research has been the book: Social Media and Everyday Politics. This is under contract to Polity, with the manuscript due to the publishers in early 2015. Tying together a lot of my research over the past five years, it’s wrapping up several threads – more details will come in the new year.

Meanwhile, my article on Twitter and Australian politics, focusing on #auspol, #wapol, and the online commentariat, was published in the International Journal of e-governance (6(4), pp. 342-360. doi:10.1504/IJEG.2013.060648). Technically a 2013 publication but it appeared early in 2014, this paper is the final version of my presentation at the Réseau DEL symposium in Paris in June 2013, and forms part of a DEL special issue arising from the symposium. For a bonus feature, this journal and another French-language special issue featuring other papers from the symposium were launched at an event in Paris late in 2014, and which you can view here.

In June, I presented at the Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space conference in Amsterdam; this paper returned to the topic of social media and elections, but rather than just looking at politicians and associated activity, I was more interested for this study in examining how Australians tweet on election day, what practices and patterns are apparent:

 

Social media and popular culture

From the popular culture side of things, it’s been a quiet year; at ANZCA (when I finally got there) I presented a paper drawing together the various datasets around SBS, Twitter audiences, Eurovision, and the Tour de France:

 

At the AoIR conference in Daegu, South Korea, in October, Axel Bruns presented work also by Darryl Woodford, Katie Prowd, and myself, examining who is discussing which television shows within the Australian Twittersphere by mapping programme-specific discussions onto the brand new Australian Twittersphere map (you should also be checking out the amazing work Darryl and Katie are doing around new social media metrics, both around television with their telemetrics but also in other contexts, such as their collaboration with Peta Mitchell around the recent G20 in Brisbane):

 

Big data, social media

The map itself was then unveiled at ECREA in Lisbon in November, in a paper again presented by Axel with contributions from Darryl, Troy Sadkowsky, and myself:

 

And finally, next month Axel will be presenting a paper by the pair of us at ACSPRI in Sydney on big data and social media:

 

 

So, that was 2014; as I said, it’s been a weird, disjointed year, but everything seems to be looking positive and heading in the right direction for 2015. Which is nice…

(actually it’s ridiculously exciting, but that’s for another post – coming soon!)

new article, upcoming presentations: Australian politics on Twitter

Mar
27

It’s been a bit quiet here since the WA election on 9 March, although the work on that project has continued – I’ve been saving the final analysis for conference papers (see below), but will provide a round-up of the election on Twitter once that is all done. With the election out of the way, too, other work has taken priority, but the Easter break should give me some more writing time.

While the WA election work continues, though, the journal article that Axel Bruns and I wrote about Twitter and last year’s Queensland state election has just been published online by Information, Communication & Society, ahead of a themed issue around social media and elections (following on from the similarly-themed ECREA panel last year):

Bruns, A., & Highfield, T. (2013). Political Networks on Twitter: Tweeting the Queensland state election. Information, Communication & Society. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2013.782328

Full citation details for this paper will follow when the print version of the journal appears; on that note, I’m also happy to announce that the Information, Communication & Society AOIR special issue details have been confirmed – this edition includes the article with Axel and Stephen Harrington about Eurovision, social media and television audiences, and fandom (along with many awesome papers from last year’s conference – do check them out!). The updated citation for this article is:

Highfield, T., Harrington, S., & Bruns, A. (2013). Twitter as a Technology for Audiencing and Fandom: The #Eurovision phenomenon. Information, Communication & Society, 16(3), 315-339. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2012.756053

The work we carried out on the Queensland election also informs some upcoming papers, both solo and co-authored, that I’ll be presenting in a few months’ time (and, in the long-term, will also be a key foundation for our tracking of the federal election planned for September).

In June, I’m off to Paris to present at an ECR day as part of the “Online political participation and its critics” symposium run by the electronic democracy (DEL) network. My paper there is on “Twitter and Australian political debates“, and builds on the preliminary work I presented, along with Axel and Stephen, at IR13 last year.

A few weeks later, at the start of July, I’ll be back in WA, in Fremantle to present at this year’s ANZCA conference. There, I’ll present a paper co-authored with Axel, entitled “#wavotes: Tracking candidates’ use of social media in the 2013 Western Australian state election“. This paper takes the data collected during the WA election campaign and expands on the initial analyses featured here to more thoroughly explore how Twitter was used in the lead-up to the vote. Covering both the Queensland and WA cases also provides an opportunity for comparing similar types of campaign – state-level politics – which will then contrast with the federal coverage later this year.

There are more projects in progress at the moment, too; right now, my Curtin colleague Sky Croeser is in Tunisia for the World Social Forum for the second stage of our “Mapping Movements” research, and, as with our earlier research into Occupy Oakland, I’m supporting her on-site studies by tracking relevant tweets and starting web crawls from central websites (rediscovering IssueCrawler in the process). More details on this, and other projects, to come later!