Twitter Zombie: Architecture for Capturing, Socially Transforming and Analyzing the Twittersphere
Association for Computing Machinery
Social computational systems emerge in the wild on popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, but there remains confusion about the relationship between social interactions and the technical traces of interaction left behind through use. Twitter interactions and social experience are particularly challenging to make sense of because of the wide range of tools used to access Twitter (text message, website, iPhone, TweetDeck and others), and the emergent set of practices for annotating message context (hashtags, reply to's and direct messaging). Further, Twitter is used as a back channel of communication in a wide range of contexts, ranging from disaster relief to watching television. Our study examines Twitter as a transport protocol that is used differently in different socio-technical contexts, and presents an analysis of how researchers might begin to approach studies of Twitter interactions with a more reflexive stance toward the application programming interfaces (APIs) Twitter provides. We conduct a careful review of existing literature examining socio-technical phenomena on Twitter, revealing a collective inconsistency in the description of data gathering and analysis methods. In this paper, we present a candidate architecture and methodological approach for examining specific parts of the Twittersphere. Our contribution begins a discussion among social media researchers on the topic of how to systematically and consistently make sense of the social phenomena that emerge through Twitter. This work supports the comparative analysis of Twitter studies and the development of social media theories.