[Air-L] "Understanding the Quality of Civic Debate and Coherence on Social Media Hashtag Networks: Twitter and Weibo." Talk on 21 March, 3 pm CET

Esther Laufer cfa at cais.nrw
Thu Mar 16 04:04:12 PDT 2023

Dear all,
You are warmly invited to attend the hybrid talk by our guest speaker Professor Gwen Bouvier on
Understanding the Quality of Civic Debate and Coherence on Social Media Hashtag Networks: Twitter and Weibo
The presentation will be conducted on 21 March, 3 pm CET, as a hybrid event at the Center for Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS) in Bochum, Germany, and on Webex. To join us on site or on Webex please register at kolleg at cais-research.de.
In media and communications studies, one perspective on social media networks is how they have great potential to bring people together, to create communities across networks of hashtags, forums and platform. Groups of people formerly isolated, fragmented or voiceless, now have spaces to share ideas, come together and be heard. Optimistic interpretations of this process see the potential for vastly increased civic participation, raising the democratic process.
Some studies, looking closer at some of the viral feeds where this occurs, suggest that beneath the surface there can much less coherence. Feeds based on hashtags can carry a range of views and interests, often linked by some kind of ‘affective’ moral binding, and where there is very little actual interaction and responsiveness to others. And such networks can be dominated and colonized by different levels of influencers.
In this presentation, I look at examples of such hashtag feeds, first on Twitter, and then on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. At a more superficial glance, these feeds seem to be highly coherent and integrated. Particularly in the corpus collected on Weibo, where mothers seek out and share information and guidance on parenting with some popular posts having millions of views, no instances of insulting, argument or even greater disagreement are found. This could, perhaps, be one such example of how social media provides a site for support and coming together. Yet a closer look reveals that the sense of community here may be slightly
different than it appears at the surface. The hashtags are dominated by influencers, and none of them seem to have any formal training or expertise in parenting. In this presentation, I look at what it is that is driving these hashtags. What we see is that such feeds may be better thought of in terms of how they colonize and shape our understandings of civic issues.
Gwen Bouvier (PhD, University of Wales) is a Distinguished Professor at Shanghai International Studies University. Her main areas of research interest are social media, civic discourse, and news representation. Professor Bouvier's publications have focused on multimodal and critical discourse analysis, social media, fashion as discourse and the visual representation of crises in news. She is the Associate Editor for Social Semiotics Journal and Review Editor for Discourse & Society. Her latest publications include Bouvier, G. and Rasmussen, J. (2022) Qualitative Research Using Social Media. London: Routledge; Zhao, W. and Bouvier, G. (2022) ‘Where Neoliberalism shapes Confucian notions of child rearing: influencers, experts and discourses of intensive parenting on Chinese Weibo.’ Discourse,
Context and Media. 45; Bouvier, G. and Machin, D. (2021) ‘What gets lost in Twitter ‘cancel culture’ hashtags? Calling out racists reveals some limitations of social justice campaigns.’ Discourse & Society, 32(3): 307-327. Chiluwa, I. and Bouvier, G. (2019) Activism, Campaigning and Political Discourse on Twitter. New York, NY: Nova Science.
Best wishes,

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