PhD Project

Twitter as the new Coffee House?

The mapping of the European Political Twittersphere and its significance for the European Public Sphere

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Intro

Scholars have researched the emergence of a European public sphere (EPS) where citizens of Europe are able to participate in transnational conversations. The argument of my Ph.D. project is that the Internet seems to hold much potential in contributing to the emerging of an EPS. From a participatory perspective, it might help in the democratization of European discussions, as the international audiences now can avoid the political and cultural filters of the national media when engaging in online debates.

The Ph.D. project, using a computational social science approach, is divided in three academic papers. Each one of them with different angle but using the same data. For the first paper, network analysis of the interactions of Twitter users under the hashtags focusing on the actor level: what are the most important nodes, which ones have importance transmitting information, etc. The second paper uses network analysis as well, however I focus on the whole network instead of actor level. In that sense the goal is to measure the level of transnational interactions the users create using the hashtags. The third paper uses content and sentiment analysis with quanteda and iSA R packages. The purpose is to know that and how and what users say about the topics.

Data

Data from March 2016 to today collected by the Twitter Capture Analysis from Amsterdam University installed in an Amazon EC2 Server.

Issue PublicHashtagNature
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership#ttipPolitical/Economic
Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (Europeanized Actor)#draghiEconomic
Group formed by the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)#troikaEconomic
Treaty which led to the creation of Europe’s borderless Schengen Area#schengenPolitical
Discussion online regarding British withdrawal from the European Union#brexitPolitical
Eurovision Song Contest#eurvisionCulture

Paper 1: a Networked Public Sphere study

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This article is an explorative approach to Twitter networks of European topics, named as European Political Twittersphere. The purpose of this article is to discern the main characteristics of these networks by using Social Network Analysis and the theoretical framework of Benkler’s Networked Public Sphere theory. The paper shows empirical evidence of the normative concept of Networked Public Spheres, where individual users play an important role filtering and transmitting information. A role that until now was dominated by big news corporations and political institutions.

Paper 2: a transnational European Public Sphere

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The article explores the interactions formed around Twitter issue publics of European relevance with the geographic location, framed around the theory of the European Public Sphere. The geolocation of the tweets have been collected using geocoding strategies for Twitter. The results show that there is certain degree of transnational European Public Sphere in these topics. However they are still small compared to discussion about the topics made nationally.

Paper 3: a content and sentiment analysis of European topics

The third article looks at the content of the networks. Once we have the characteristics of the networks, and once we know what kind of -transnational- interactions users have, it is time to look how and what users talk about the topics mapped. The third article is a content & sentiment analysis. More specifically I look at the patterns that arise when individuals speak and interact about issues of European relevance.