Accepted paper:

The publicity of privacy: Two methods for investigating public controversies with social media


Noortje Marres (University of Warwick)
David Moats (Linköping University)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

This paper outlines a symmetrical approach to the study of public controversies with social media, by way of a case study analysing privacy issues on Twitter. Such an approach pays equal attention to how a social medium like Twitter mediates public controversy, and how public controversies mediate social media, treating the specification of both the object and medium of public controversy as an empirical problem.

Firstly, we would like to test the proposition that social media enable distinctive forms and trajectories of public controversy: what counts as a controversy and how it can be delineated is opened up for questioning in this setting. Secondly we propose that particular controversies may inflect social media in different ways: which actors, terms, and practices help constitute privacy as an object of controversy on Twitter requires empirical scrutiny. We argue that keeping the instability of both the medium and the controversy in view may require a methodological shift in how public controversies are studied.

To illustrate this, we will examine how different publicity practices and processes of promotion, protest and provocation intersect in the making of public controversies about privacy with Twitter. We will do this by examining privacy issues with two digital objects - the Hashtag and the Hyperlink - using two innovative mapping techniques: the associational profiler and the Twitter link mapper. These will be applied in a study of privacy issues surrounding the Edward Snowden leaks, tracing the composition and re-composition of privacy issues in the wake of this event.

panel G2
Digital mediation and re-mediation: What prospects for a future STS?