Friday, October 15, 2010

Narrative Interactions: Sagadi

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Sagadi, Estonia, teaching a graduate seminar for the Nordic Narrative Network.  It was a great experience, and made me think a lot about the value of connecting different streams of narrative research, but also how difficult it sometimes is to bridge the gap between literary-critical v. sociolingiustic perspectives.

I spent some time debating the importance of contextualism in relation to unnatural narratives with my good friend, Jan Alber.  For me, the reader's frames of reference and their cultural situation precede their interpretation to define a scenario as 'unnatural' or not, at least when this moves beyond concrete examples of logical impossibility.  And the cultural differences in interpretation strike me as something that would be interesting to explore too. But I'm not convinced that literary narratologists would see things the same way. Does that matter?  What do you think?


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Literacy in the Digital University

Today I have attended the ESRC seminar for Literacy in the Digital University. There were many interesting presentations, including an excellent talk by Eszter Hargittai.  I will be really interested to read some of the work she's published about the demographics of digital skills and their perceived impact on student behaviour.  I also came away thinking about the post-human nature of the some of the storytelling I've been analysing: specifically the hybrid way that the machine templates intersect with human generated text to tell our stories in tweet and update streams.

I also need to resurrect my twitter account, having promised to do so at 7.25 this morning, live on air for BBC Radio Leicester.  But Twitter is too busy right now, so that will have to wait for another day.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

To tweet or not to tweet

Yesterday, the University of Leicester released some of the findings of my celebrity twitter research and there has been a small flurry of interest from the online world.  For someone who writes a blog (albeit intermittantly) I find myself wondering why I now find myself flipping between feeling slightly unnerved and slightly excited.  Maybe it's because I don't think many people will actually read my blog! Maybe because I find myself placing my research alongside rather more weighty issues like the Browne report and the rescue of the Chilean miners

Some of the questions I've been asked are:
Do I think the celebrities are consciously self promoting and disguising this with conversational engagement?
Well, I'm not inside their heads, and I don't think Twitter is a way of seeing inside their heads either, despite what the Guardian might suggest.  But if we can infer anything about people's identity from their discourse style, then we can say that celebrities are the example par excellence of how to amplify your identity in twitter.

Who are the worst offenders?
In my sample, the distribution between promoting shows and personal self disclosure was evenly distributed across the different personalities, but there were some celebrities who never disclosed anything personal (like Boris Johnson and Arnold Schwarzenegger).  It depends on whether you see the personal disclosure as good or bad as to whether you think their practice is something negative.

Who was the most interesting tweeter to read?
I enjoyed Sarah Brown the most, Andy Murray the least.

Do I tweet?
Well, that would be a 'no', despite having a twitter account (ruthtweetpage).  Maybe I just can't squeeze what I want to say into 140 characters!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Summary of Celebrity Twitter Study

Hi there, after the summer break here is a summary of the main findings from the study of celebrity tweet streams I was working on earlier this year. There is more detail on the stats in the post just below, but here I'm reflecting on the possible relevance of the findings too:

Main findings:
1. Celebrities favour a 1-to-many form of broadcasting in twitter, not peer-to-peer messaging
2.  The majority of celebrity tweets are about their professional activity, not the ‘everyday’ domestic lives.
3. The immediacy of celebrity tweeting is used to prioritise shows or products (shown in collocational patterns for ‘today’, ‘tonight’ and ‘tomorrow’, which associate with ‘on the show’)
4. Like other tweeters, the links celebrities share in their tweets boost their professional status, but they share more photographs which literally increases their online image.
5. Celebrities cover over this self-promotion with a veneer of conversational strategy, telling jokes, praising and thanking their audience, asking questions, making positive evaluations.
6.  Women celebrities make positive evaluations in RTs more than men, especially Dannii Minogue and Demi Moore.
What’s the point?
Mainstream media sensationalise celebrity tweets as giving direct access to the ‘real person’, e.g. the Guardian’s recent piece on ‘seeing into the brain’ of the musician 50 cents, but in fact, most celebrities aren’t using twitter for personal self-disclosure.  We don't find out much about the celebrity themselves, let alone see 'into their brain'.
Twitter self-promotion for celebrities doesn’t necessarily result in influence.  A recent study from Northwestern University showed that specialist knowledge about areas of professional expertise was more important in trending topics than the number of followers or retweets gained by a celebrity.
Substance over style is more important for influence in Twitter.  This is the opposite of what happens in Facebook where seemingly trivial disclosures are important for the ‘social grooming’ work that this small talk achieves.