ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Twitter as a social network medium and a communication network medium Opportunities, challenges and limitations

Maurice Vergeer

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 5 - Law Building, Room 020
Date: 2012-07-12 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2011-12-18


This paper will address a number of questions based on the experience of working with Twitter data from several general election campaigns (the Netherlands, South Korea, the UK and Canada)
1. How to collect data
The first question will address how to collect data using Twitter’s application programming interface (API). What strategies can one use to simplify and structure the data collection to overcome some of Twitter’s API limitations (e.g. Twitter’s limit of 3200 tweets).
2. How to enrich data
At first glance Twitter data seem quite basic. However, to create more high quality data the data can be enriched by attaching attributes to the nodes identified. There are basically two strategies to enrich the data:
a) -using extra-Twitter generated data: in the case of politicians, sex or age of candidate, party affiliation etc.
b) -Intra-Twitter data: using characteristics of tweeting behavior, e.g. daily tweet average, daily increase in the election campaign, standard deviation as indication for tweet consistency, etc.
3. How to extract communication nodes from tweets
Tweets contain nodes the tweets are directed to or nodes are mentioned in. These nodes can be extracted to serve as communication nodes. How to extract these data from tweets is demonstrated using academic software (particularly SPSS).
4. How to re-arranging data structures to prepare for network analysis.
Having extracted these nodes the rectangular data sets has to be re-arranges to enable network analysis. Re-arranging these data will result is large data sets. One such data set holds 65 million communicative relations made over a 40-day period.

Vergeer, M., & Hermans, L. (2008). Analysing online political discussions: Methodological considerations. Javnost-the Public, 15(2), 37-55.
Vergeer, M. Lim, Y.S. Park, H.W. (2011). Mediated relations: New methods to study online social capital. Asian Journal of Communication, 21(5), 430-449.
Vergeer, M., Hermans, L., & Sams, S. (online first). Online social networks and micro-blogging in political campaigning: The exploration of a new campaign tool and a new campaign style. Party Politics. DOI: 10.1177/1354068811407580
Vergeer, M. & Hermans, L. (2011). New public deliberations. Twitter as a new campaign tool for public discussions. Paper presented at the 2011 WAPOR 64th Annual Conference in September 21-23, 2011. Amsterdam, The Netherland.