Open online spaces of professional learning: searching for understanding  the ‘material’ of Twitter discussion events

Here are the slides from my presentation to the Social Informatics cluster group meeting of 13 June 2014.


Recent years have seen a growth in micro-blogging discussion events intended to support professional learning (McCulloch, et al, 2011; Bingham and Conner, 2010) communities. These events often take place on Twitter and are open to anyone using that service. The synchronous events are organised through the convention of hashtags (#) in combination with a shortened name as an explicit mechanism to aggregate contributions and enable open interactions (Bruns 2011).
This presentation will explore an initial investigation of two of these Twitter discussion event communities that both target corporate learning and development professionals. The overall study is concerned with how social discourses within a specific context emerge as sense-making and legitimation strategies around particular practices (Phillips and Hardy 2002: 25) and so will employ a multi-modal discourse analysis approach (Levine and Scullion 2004). However, the data from these Twitter discussion events does not have a transparently coherent structure as discussion sequences run coterminously and interrupt one another (Honeycutt and Herring 2009). So, with the purpose of “making sense of the data”, this presentation outlines the approaches used in identifying and analysing the key patterns of participation and structures of the Twitter discussion events. The descriptive statistical approaches suggested by Bruns (2014) are used to analyse the Twitter events and to discuss the limits of such analysis with reference to recent debates on the nature and status of ‘data’ in digital research (boyd and Crawford 2012; Baym 2013). The extent to which this kind of analysis can reveal the power and participation strategies of Twitter users in these events will be discussed.

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