The Arab Spring on Twitter: Language Communities in #egypt and #libya
Bruns, Axel & Highfield, Tim (2014) The Arab Spring on Twitter: Language Communities in #egypt and #libya. In Bebawi, Saba & Bossio, Diana (Eds.) Social Media and the Politics of Reportage: The 'Arab Spring'. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, pp. 33-55.
Building on hashtag datasets gathered since January 2011, this paper will compare patterns of Twitter usage during the popular revolution in Egypt and the civil war in Libya. Using custom-made tools for processing ‘big data’ (boyd & Crawford, 2011), we will examine the volume of tweets sent by English-, Arabic-, and mixed-language Twitter users over time, and examine the networks of interaction (variously through @replying, retweeting, or both) between these groups as they developed and shifted over the course of these uprisings. Examining @reply and retweet traffic, we will identify general patterns of information flow between the English- and Arabic-speaking sides of the Twittersphere, and highlight the roles played by key boundary riders connecting both language spheres. Further, we will examine the URLs shared in these hashtags by Twitter participants, to identify the most prominent overall information sources, examine differences in the information diet experienced by English- and Arabic-language users, and investigate whether there are any online sources whose URLs are transcending language boundaries more frequently than others.
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