Radboud Summer School course “Social Media Theory and Data in Journalism and Political Communication”

I am pleased to announce that I will teach a course on social media theory and data in journalism and political communication. It will take place in the first week of August 2016 in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Click to read the course description.

Social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Plurk, Renren) are important new digital platforms for online social networking and microblogging to discuss all kinds of issues (serious and trivial).
A subdivision of social media research concerns how regular people (citizens), political actors (politicians, organisations) and media professionals (journalists) use social media to share opinions about issues, create online communities and use social media strategically to inform or to win over people, e.g., to vote for them. In this course you will learn how to look at this social media data to understand how journalists, politicians, and citizens use social media. The course has three main parts: (a) theorizing social media, (b) theorizing theories about online journalism and political communication, and (c) methods of data collection and analysis of social media.
Social media theories will look at the specifics of social media design and how this affects online communication and networks. This theme is applicable to all kinds of social media and connected digital media. Subsequently we will look at creating social media theories for journalism and political communication using traditional and new approaches to create social media theories such as agenda setting research and networked journalism. Furthermore, we will discuss and use methods of collection and analysing social media data. The empirical and hands-on part will focus on understanding the structure of social media data (e.g., networks based on social connections but also sharing activities), the dynamics of social media data (e.g., change across time of social media activity) and the actual content of social media (i.e., expressed opinions).
In the morning programme the main focus will be theory, although methods will be a part of those sessions. In the afternoon we will have hands-on meetings on how to collect social media data, how to develop measurements instruments and analysing social media in terms of structure and content.

General information about summer courses from the Radboud University in 2016 can be found here.

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New publication about viral ads

This week a new publication of ours was published:
Ketelaar, P. E., Janssen, L., Vergeer, M., van Reijmersdal, E. A., Crutzen, R., & van ‘t Riet, J. (online first). The success of viral ads: Social and attitudinal predictors of consumer pass-on behavior on social network sites. Journal of Business Research. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2015.10.151

Below is the abstract

This study investigates which factors predict whether consumers will pass on viral advertising communications to their friends on a social network site. A conceptual framework consisting of three attitudinal and three social predictors of forwarding online content was tested using three real-life advertising campaigns that were spread simultaneously through the Dutch social network site Hyves. Results show that viral advertising pass-on behavior was significantly predicted by a positive attitude toward the brand, the advertisement, and toward viral advertising in general. For two of the three advertisements participants were more likely to forward the advertisement when the advertisement was received from a friend rather than a company. The present study is the first to investigate the predictors of actual pass-on behavior of viral advertisements in the context of a social network site, thereby significantly contributing to existing knowledge on the drivers of viral advertising success.

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Visit to and Presentation in Shanghai, China

Earlier this year I received an invitation to attend a symposium organized by the Friedrich Ebert Stifting in Shanghai and the Shanghai Administration Institute. To be honest, receiving many invitations and reading this email only superficially, I first thought it was spam email. Luckily I did not yet delete it and a few days later I reread the email and  determining was a very interesting symposium in a very interesting setting. So I decided to accept the invitation, organized the visa for China, I took the plane to Shanghai, spent a few days sensing the city’s spirit and doing some site seeing and enjoying the food and people. Then on Monday I met my fellow presenters from Europe for dinner. For a complete list of presenters in the symposium click here. We had a very nice dinner Chinese style. I must say that after having worked some time in South Korea, I really got hooked on Asian food, whether it’s Korean, Japanese, or Chinese or Thai, when prepared well, it’s all delicious, even though some of it is an acquired taste.

Then on Tuesday morning, after having taken the group photo, the symposium titled “Transforming societies – transforming political parties” started. The program was a mix of Western scholars as well as scholars from China talking about  online political communication, political science and politics. The entire program will be available shortly from the website of the Friedrich Ebert Stifting.

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There was a mix of political communication presentations and political science presentations. Those on political communication were provided by Rachel Gibson from Machester University in the UK and myself. Rachel Gibson talked about her project at Manchester University, and was titled “Social and Technological Trends and their Effects on Parties in the Western World”. One of here main studies was published in the New Media and Society special issue on “The state of online campaigning in politics”, titled “Party organizational change and ICTs: The growth of a virtual grassroots?” . I was the second international speaker, talking about “New Media – New Engaging Politcs? Personalization and Mediatization in Politics” It was based on published and and onging research . First I talked about changing ways of conducting elections campaigns which is based on Norris’  and Gibson and Römmele’s work . I then presented some results of prior published on the personalization in European Parliaments Elections that took place in 2009 (Hermans & Vergeer, 2013). I finished my presentation with some preliminary findings of a comparison of Twitter political Twitter networks in five countries (Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, the UK and Canada). I am not going to write about that too much right now, because – as said – this project is still in progress.

Having worked and stayed somewhat longer periods in Asia but never in China, I decided to book a couple of days extra. Staying at a hotel in the French Concession, it was very easy to walk the streets leading either to Nanjing Road West or to Huaihai Road. From there it’s easy to take the very efficient and cheap subway system to travel across this vast city. In part I behaved like a true tourist sightseeing the main attractions. However I also like the parks where regular people like to go. I particularly liked Lu Xun Park and the Duolun neighborhood where Chinese writers lived.
After acting the tourist and relaxing in the hotel room watching some TV I noticed that on Chinese TV, the audition programs are very popular: every evening there is a “Chinese Idol” broadcast or a “So You Think You Can Dance” program. These programs strictly follow the formats as imposed by the producers. They also have HBO Asia, at least in the hotel, which I didn’t know existed. There are of course also many Chinese movie channels with historical movies and martial arts. Of course these are the channels available at my hotel. The regular channel package for people is sure to differ from this.

Of course, another thing I noticed, although I was already aware of Google’s disputes with China’s government, is that Google services did not work in Shanghai. Gmail and Google Maps on my Android phone did not work out of the box. A small workaround, using a VPN, solved this issue. Interestingly, Google Maps information on restaurants and traffic information was up-to-date and realtime, suggesting that many more people use Google. Otherwise, Google information should be outdated quite quickly, particularly the information on traffic congestion.

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On that topic, it’s a bit of a shame to find yourself in Shanghai and encounter similar TV programs, the same coffee shops (e.g. Starbucks) and the same clothing shops (e.g. H&M and UNIQLO). That’s not why I travel the world. I want to be surprised and learn and taste new things. At the same time anime, manga and cosplay are enjoying increased popularity in the west as well. Whether this will balance out, meaning that specific cultural elements wil remain is unclear.

It’s almost as if it’s not the governments anymore that run the countries, but it’s the multinational companies like Ikea, H&M, UNIQLO, Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King etc. Besides their increasing economic power, it leads to an increasing homogenization of culture. It really takes away the fun of traveling, of being surprised by the culture and the local customs. Still, this mainly applies to the city centers of large cities. When you venture in to neighborhoods some five or more subway stations away from the tourist center, you’ll be surprised how little English they understand, and see that the chance of encountering a Starbucks rapidly decrease.

But let’s be clear, do not be bothered by this when considering going to Shanghai. Go, you´ll enjoy it. There’s enough new things to experience. The only thing is you have to put somewhat more effort into it. That’s easy enough if you’re willing to take a 11 hour flight from Europe to get there in the first place. For me it was definitely worthwhile. Then, on Saturday evening Shanghai time – after a hellish taxi ride due to a very sleepy taxi driver – I flew back to the Netherlands and arrived at my home doorstep at 7:30AM local time.

A great thank you goes to Catherina Schläger, Judith Christ, Florian Sladky and Yan Yu representing the Friedrich Ebert Stifting in Shanghai for organizing this symposium in collaboration with the Shanghai Administration Institute.

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