Media Ecologies and Methodological Innovation

The project has undertaken world-leading, applied research in crisis communication and the development of innovative research tools and methods for tracking social media activity and mapping online publics, addressing significant gaps in our knowledge about Australian uses of social media. The importance and reach of the research is reflected in the strong national and international collaborations that have been developed, extensive media coverage of research findings, and the grant success that has been achieved.

Project researchers have built key links with national and international agencies. Researchers are also involved in research collaborations funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Norwegian Research Council, and the Australian Technology Network / German Academic Exchange Service partnership. Domestic links include connections with Google Australia, IBM Research Australia, Eidos Institute, Fairfax Digital, and the Queensland Department of Community Safety. Project researchers have also developed close ties to leading Australian media organisations, with frequent contributions to The Conversation and a regular guest commentary spot for Axel Bruns on ABC News 24 during the Australian federal election campaign.


During 2013 the project focussed on consolidating and disseminating its research findings, and on developing the frameworks to preserve and extend its achievements beyond the funded life of the CCI. We have done so through a number of major publishing projects, as well as by developing a range of follow-on, competitively funded research projects which will maintain the momentum of the project well into the second half of this decade.

Key outputs of the project for 2013 include the major collection Twitter and Society, edited by Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess with colleagues Katrin Weller, Merja Mahrt, and Cornelius Puschmann from the University of Düsseldorf, Germany. Published by Peter Lang and also released in a Creative Commons-licenced eBook version, this 450-page collection brings together leading social media researchers, including a number of CCI researchers, to document and reflect on the state-of-the-art in Twitter scholarship. This field-defining work was launched at the Association of Internet Researchers conference in Denver in October. We also edited a number of special issues focused on the scholarly and practical dimensions of digital methods, including a special issue of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media on ‘Emerging Methods for Digital Media Research’ (editors Jean Burgess, Axel Bruns, and Larissa Hjorth), a special issue of M/C Journal on ‘mining’ (editors Dean Laplonge and Axel Bruns), and a special issue of the ASLIB Journal of Information Management on ‘Twitter Data Analytics’ (editors. Katrin Weller and Axel Bruns, forthcoming 2014).

Researchers won a number of major research grants in the November 2013 round of ARC funding. Project leader Axel Bruns won a four-year, $870,000 ARC Future Fellowship for a project aimed at Understanding Intermedia Information Flows in the Australian Online Public Sphere, drawing on ‘big data’ resources including Hitwise data, internal Fairfax site data, and Twitter activity data. CCI researchers from QUT, Swinburne, and Curtin University in collaboration with research partners at Deakin University and the National Library of Australia also won a two-year, $460,000 ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant to build TrISMA: Tracking Infrastructure for Social Media Analysis, extending the methodological basis developed through the project yet further.

Areas of thematic focus during 2013 included crisis communication, continuing the trajectory of research begun with the CCI’s 2012 report on the use of Twitter in the 2011 Queensland floods and applying similar analytical perspectives to more recent natural disasters and other crises; entertainment, developing the analytical tools and methods to quantify social media activity around television programming and correlate it with on-screen activities; and politics, focusing especially on the role of social media in the 2013 Labor leadership spill and subsequent Australian federal election,  as well as – in collaboration with research partners in Oslo and Munich – corresponding research into the 2013 Norwegian and German elections. The trajectory of mainstream media reporting on the uses of social media in politics in Australia since 2008 was also the subject of the CCI report Social Media in the Media by Theresa Sauter and Axel Bruns.

Jean Burgess was took up residence as Visiting Researcher at Microsoft Research New England in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for four months during the first half of 2013, building CCI’s connection to this leading industry-based research organisation, whose world-leading social media researchers (including danah boyd, Kate Crawford and Nancy Baym) bridge the social science-computing divide. Axel Bruns was a Visiting Fellow with the Institute for Media and Communication Studies at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, a leading centre for journalism and political communication research in Europe, during April/May 2013.


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