AAAI Publications, Sixth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media

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Conversation Practices and Network Structure in Twitter
Luca Rossi, Matteo Magnani

Last modified: 2012-05-20

Abstract


The public by default nature of Twitter messages, together with the adoption of the #hashtag convention led, in few years, to the creation of a digital space able to host world-wide conversation on almost every kind of topic. From major TV shows to Natural disasters there is no contemporary event that does not have its own #hashtag to gather together the ongoing Twitter conversation. These topical discussions take place outside of the Twitter network made of followers and friends. Nevertheless this topical network is where many of the most studied phenomena take place. Therefore Twitter based communication exists on two almost autonomous levels: the Twitter network made of followers and friends that shows a certain level of stability and the topical network, characterized by a high level of contingency, that appears and disappears following the rhythm of a worldwide conversation. Despite the fact that this double nature of Twitter is widely recognized among scholars there is still little literature facing the relationships between these two networks. This paper presents the results of an empirical research aimed at discovering how the Twitter network is affected by what happens on the topical network. Does the participation in the same hashtag based conversation change the follower list of the participants? Is it possible to point out specific social behaviors that would produce a major gain of followers? Our conclusions are based on real data concerning the popular TV show Xfactor, that largely used Twitter as the official backchannel platform for its audience.

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