Conceptualising Twitter as a discourse system: Discursive practices in political online communication

A session at Twitter and Microblogging: Political, Professional and Personal Practices

Thursday 11th April, 2013

9:35am to 10:05am

The mediatisation of society has spawned new ways of political communication in the digital public sphere. Innovative forms of interacting and contributing online have opened up new perspectives for participation that are accompanied by high hopes for more democratic structures. The ideal of deliberative democracy that has long been discussed by theorists like Habermas is linked with the notion of equal discursive options in an open system. Whereas questions regarding mediatisation processes often point at the macro level of political communication online, systematic analyses of discursive strategies and communicational structures provide insights into the micro level of language use.

One of the most recent positive developments in terms of participative discourse can be observed within the microblogging platform Twitter. Despite its restriction to 140 characters per posting, the microblogging system can be conceptualized as a highly complex medium in which a diverse set of communicative actions is being performed by its users on multiple dimensions. Four main Twitter-specific functions, induced by operators, can be identified that offer options for participating in the (political) discourse. The operators of @, RT, #, and http:// enable communicative functions beyond their technical means like addressing, tagging, republishing, and linking that are used strategically to participate in tweet-conversations and to create discursive networks on Twitter.

The aim of the presentation is to discuss a functional operator model of Twitter as a discourse system. Based on a content analysis of Tweets collected during German state elections in 2011 and 2012, it can be shown that the use of the specific functional operators constitute Twitter as a multi-referential discourse system. The triangulate methodological approach for the data analysis combines quantitative measures (frequency profiles, topic profiles) with qualitative measures, i.e., interpersonal interaction (@replies and @retweets), semantic analysis (#hashtags), and speech act analysis. The presentation will exemplify the usage of functional Twitter communication by analysing cases of interaction between politicians and citizens, politicians and politicians, and citizens and citizens. It will be shown how users creatively establish particular discursive practices within the political discourse.

About the speaker

This person is speaking at this event.
Mark Dang-Anh

Universität Bonn

Next session in GF2

10:10am A discourse-historical approach to media framing of activists use of Twitter by Alexander David Pask-Hughes

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Time 9:35am10:05am GMT

Date Thu 11th April 2013

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