Visualising the ‘Royal Navy’ on Twitter

In ‘Track 2’ of our social media analysis we have been looking at flows of information on Twitter in relation to discussions of the UK Armed Forces. We are exploring who the key players are in the dissemination of news and information around defence issues.

We previously posted some of our findings in relation to tweets that contained the words “British Army” based on data collected between April and June 2014. In this post we look at the “Royal Navy”.

The image below is a visualisation of the Twitter data in relation to tweets that contain the phrase “Royal Navy”. The larger nodes represent Twitter accounts that were most mentioned (using the @ symbol), or most mentioned other accounts, in relation to the “Royal Navy”.

Our analysis is summarised in the three key findings below the visualisation.

Royal Navy Force Atlas Central Network 2

First, it is notable that the most significant node in the network is the Royal Navy Twitter account. This means that the Royal Navy Twitter account is the most mentioned of all Twitter accounts in the network. On the one hand, this is unsurprising given we were searching for tweets which contained the words “Royal Navy”. On the other hand, it suggests that in contrast to the British Army visualisation the mainstream news media are not significant actors within the Royal Navy network. This is interesting because for the British Army the mainstream news media were significant determinants of what information was circulated on Twitter. In the visualisation above, the most significant determinant of information circulating is the Royal Navy Twitter account itself.

There are several possible reasons for this. The first is that the Royal Navy may be of less interest to the mainstream news media than the British Army. The second is that the Royal Navy Twitter Account may be particularly effective in attracting mentions by other users. But, this second explanation may also be contextual. During the period of data collection the Royal Navy were involved in the search for the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 which generated a lot of mentions on Twitter. In fact, this also explains the prominence of the BBC Breaking News Twitter account in the visualisation and draws our attention to the extent to which information circulating on Twitter is event driven, and often related to events in the mainstream news media.

Our second key finding was that a number of Twitter accounts frequently mentioned the Royal Navy Twitter account but for very contrasting reasons. Some, for example, mentioned the Royal Navy Twitter account in the context of drawing attention to, and eliciting support for, military personnel who had died. Others mentioned the Royal Navy Twitter account in connection with the offering of services or products, such as small marine companies. This draws our attention to the multiple and diffuse ways in which defence issues per se are discussed in the Twittersphere. But, more significantly, it highlights the extent to which analysis of Twitter networks and nodes only become meaningful when they are contextualised and analysed qualitatively. The content of the tweet – what is said, by who and why – becomes as important as the tweet’s flow within the network.

We will be looking into this issue in more detail through a visual analysis of our Twitter data in forthcoming posts.

Finally, we were able to identity Twitter accounts that both distribute information about the Royal Navy and engage with other Twitter users discussing the Royal Navy. These Twitter accounts effectively act as ‘conversational actors’ within the network. They may be online campaigns such as @NavyLookout or individuals who are simply interested in the Royal Navy. The key thing to note about these ‘conversational actors’ is that they engage in a two-way communicative process (i.e. both mention and are mentioned, engage in re-tweets, replying etc) and in so doing reflect and engage with tweets from different parts of the network. . In contrast, the Royal Navy Twitter account and mainstream news media accounts rarely mention other Twitter accounts and instead only tweet in a uni-directional manner. Consequently, these accounts do not engage in conversations within the network beyond their own initial contribution. .

We will be publishing our analysis of our Twitter data in relation to the Royal Air Force soon.

In the meantime, we welcome all comments on any of the above. Please use the comment box below.


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