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First AoIR Flashpoint Symposium

On June 24, 2019 the University of Urbino hosted the first AoIR Flashpoint Symposium. I am really happy to have contributed to the success of the event with the other members of the organizing committee.

The Flashpoint Symposium is a new format of academic meeting that, as the president of the Association of Internet Researchers Axel Bruns said, aims at responding  “more rapidly to the key issues of the day than conventional conferences, journals, and books are able to do”.

Title of the Flashpoint Symposium was “Below the Radar: Private Groups, Locked Platforms and Ephemeral Contents”. The focus of the event was on the problems researchers face in accessing social media data and on the issues of studying social media contents in an environment marked by an increasing number of ephemeral user generated contents.

The AoIR Flashpoint Symposium was kicked off with the keynote speech of the digital anthropologist Crystal Abidin, and closed by Rebekah Tromble.

Crystal Abidin presented a lot of engaging research materials and an interesting perspective on how the danah boyd’s concept of networked publics could be revisited in the light of the recent transformations of the Internet.

The closing keynote speech was delivered by Rebekah Tromble that addressed the issue of research ethics in a scenario where social media data are increasingly difficult for researchers to access, soliciting scholars to thinking critically on the social importance of research questions and on the ethics of data treatment and conservation.

The AoIR Flashpoint Symposium was transmitted via live streaming and the video registration is available on the YouTube channel of the University of Urbino.

Axel Bruns wrote a live blog during the conference that can be read on his website. The website with the program of the conference can be accessed at the following link.

Diverging Patterns of Interaction Around News on Social Media: Insularity and Partisanship During the 2018 Italian Election Campaign

It has just been published on Information, Communication & Society “Diverging patterns of interaction around news on social media: insularity and partisanship during the 2018 Italian election campaign”.

I co-authored this paper with Fabio Giglietto, Augusto Valeriani and Giada Marino, devoting most of my attention to the methodological and statistical analyses sections.

The study – an outcome of the Mapping Italian News project – sheds light on the Italian online news media ecosystem and digital behaviour of partisan communities using methods we described in a recently published paper that usefully exploit and mix Twitter with Facebook data.

We found that:

  1. On Twitter, sources mainly shared by supporters of populist parties (the Five Star Movement and the League) are characterized by higher levels of insularity compared to those shared by supporters of other parties.
  2. On Facebook, news items published by highly insular sources receive a higher number of shares per comment.
  3. News stories presenting a positive framing of the ‘cyber party’ Five Star Movement received a higher number of shares per comment compared to items presenting the Movement in a negative light, while the opposite is true for stories on all other political parties (see the figure below).

You can read the full paper here.

Using Twitter Data to Estimate Partisan Attention in a Multi-Party Media System

It has just been published “Multi-Party Media Partisanship Attention Score. Estimating Partisan Attention of News Media Sources Using Twitter Data in the Lead-up to 2018 Italian Election”.

Extending the computational method first introduced by Benkler, Faris, Roberts and others (see here and here), the paper makes use of Twitter data to measure partisan attention to news media sources in a multi-party political system.

To validate the method we compared our results with those obtained through a survey (ITANES), finding remarkable similarity (see figure below).

Furthermore, we analyzed the degree of polarization of the Italian online news media system we observed in the lead-up to the 2018 Italian election, finding a moderate level of polarization.

We also find that populist partiesonline communities relied on news sources characterized by an higher level of insularity (i.e. mainly shared on Twitter by their partisan community only) than non-populist ones.

Replication data and R code used in the study can be found here, while the paper can be read here.