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Evolution of News in Networked Publics (#diata11)

Last week, I attended and presented at the Düsseldorf Interdisciplinary Workshop on Twitter Analysis (diata11), which I consider one of the best, most informative and discursive academic gatherings I vistited in the last years. Thanks to the invitation policy of Cornelius Puschmann and Katrin Weller, all presentations were well done and really interesting – without exception, and that’s really not the usual case at most conferences ;-). Besides the good insights in the running projects of my fellow Twitter-researchers, it was the final discussion which I will most likely remember for a long time: We talked about the very basics of what we are actually doing, both the significance of our methods and the way we can actually describe the kind of communicationwe are observing within social media (I will write another post on this discussion soon).

My own presentation was on some preliminary results of the project on the evolution of news I am working on right now; with support from the Austrian Press Agency’s Original Text Service (APA OTS) and Sensemetric. Here’s the abstract:

Evolution of News in Networked Publics

In the past, diffusion research was mostly done through telephone interviews. Today, social media not only allows us to trace the diffusion of news but the evolution of a news story through content analysis. We set up and tested a research design to analyse the cross-medial diffusion and evolution of news in different, clear-cut cases, asking for how the dynamics are shaped by different types of media. We also ask for the differences in the way news media reports on a story and the way social media users talk about it.

We code publishing time and content aspects (distinct pieces of information of central relevance) of a wide array of available texts including news stories in online newspapers, blog entries and tweets, that all deal with a certain topic. After homogenizing the material structure and chronologically ordering it, we start by selecting the first item and defining the main aspects included in its content. For each of the following texts, we code whether those aspects are included or not. Each time a new aspect, a new piece of relevant information is added in a text, the code sheet is extended respectively. Our goal is to trace the evolution of a story according to the aspects people write about.

Our first case was Uwe Scheuch‘s (the deputy governor of Carinthia) conviction in early August this year. Even though the data was not completely coded when I presented at diata11, I was able to provide some first results on the course of the reporting and discussion on Twitter and the news media on the first day of events. Please browse my slides for some of those results – embedded in a discussion of diffusion research and presentation of our method:

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