The Impact of Twitter on Ethnographic Settings

283 views 16 pages ~ 4308 words
Get a Custom Essay Writer Just For You!

Experts in this subject field are ready to write an original essay following your instructions to the dot!

Hire a Writer

Mobile phones, computers and the rapid adoption of internet connectivity and convergence are growing their presence and significance in improving the daily experiences for hundreds of millions worldwide (Howard and Parks, 2012, p.359). New communication and media technologies are intensely transforming the means through which people interact and interrelate with each other. Twitter is one of such platforms that has increasingly become part of our daily experiences and augmented a number of applications in the past 10 years. According to Longley, Adnan and Lansley (2015, p. 471), there are 100 million daily active users of Twitter with more than 80% using mobile phones. However, the evolution in portable ICTs especially the mobile phones necessitates more investigation on how the domestication framework can be extended to enhance interactions with different social networks (Haddon 2006, p.197). For the past decade, Twitter has risen to be one of the most influential online media communication tools. is a web-hosted communications application that integrates Instant Messaging and Short Messaging Service (SMS) to facilitate sharing of ‘status updates' among its subscribers. The platform has a distinctive feature characterized by its predominant question "What’s happening”, which functions to assist users to formulate their postings. With over 500 million users daily, Twitter has gained a remarkable number of applications ranging from whistleblowing to digital marketing (Howard and Parks, 2012, p.360). The dramatic rise to popularity has been largely contributed by the unique nature of communication and the brevity within which users’ network with each other. Such is majorly achieved through twitter messages commonly referred to as tweets that are normally restricted to 140 characters (Newman 2017, p.822). In most cases, such messages have a varying content and may contain hyperlinks to other different websites. Even as people from all around the world interact with each other on Twitter, they are often enticed towards clicking on the links and explore other domains that may interest them. The essay’s overarching aim is to analytically assess the impact this media phenomenon has had on different ethnographic settings. The study offers a unique opportunity to probe the manner in which people utilize and adapt to new and emerging communications technology. The empirical inquiry will involve a mini-investigation on adoption of the platform and appraise understanding of the means by which we incorporate and manipulate the tools to our advantage. From a research perspective, my core objective intends to investigate the extent to which Twitter is being consumed and if the subscribers are appropriating it to advance other pursuits.

Literature Review

Defining Twitter

            Twitter is a news and social media networking tool which since inception in 2006 has thrived to be one of the largest online platforms for people, enterprises, and organizations. Such a web-based site enables instantaneous dissemination of short messages and offers two tools to make such interactions possible which include @mentions and hashtags (Howard and Parks, 2012, p.361). The former permits one to swiftly tag particular users to their tweets which is a pivotal functionality that draws their attention. Through this form of tagging, the users can easily see the messages in the midst of other tweets on their timeline.

Figure 1: Twitter’s messaging interface  

Source: (2018)

            Over the years, the platform has undergone a significant metamorphosis with regard to its visual representation to have more appeal for its users and be accessible across a number of platforms and third-party applications. Apart from its technical configuration, Twitter’s distinctive features are the characteristic question ‘What’s happening’ and the 140-character limit for its messages. For its developers, the question and character threshold are key to its concept of relaying messages between different users without necessarily having to redirect them to message’s point of origin. As a result of Twitter’s success in many fronts, it has been referred to as “microblogging” to define the form of communication which flourish there and other in many other sites (Kontopoulos, Berberidis, Dergiades and Bassiliades 2013, p.4071). Personally, I joined Twitter five years ago and since then, I have come to appreciate its significance in connecting with people from all parts of the world. For instance, I have been able to reconnect with some of my childhood friends who travelled abroad for studies and work by following them on Twitter as shown in the below Figure 2.

Source: (2018)

            In this epoch of Web 2.0 that is especially linked with the concept of user-generated content, it has been defined by Hsu, Ching and Grabowski (2014, p.755) as data and information provided by users on a voluntary basis with an aim of making it accessible for others in a resourceful or entertaining way. Collecting all the information and making efforts to identify trends and patterns makes Twitter valuable and useful to many individuals. Additionally, other graphic media such as photos and videos can be incorporated as a URL for purposes of saving on space prior to being shared. Figure 3: A sample tweet with a hashtag, attached URL, and selections for replying and retweeting.


Source: (2018).

            The platform is designed in such a way that users can originate their own setup of contacts by following the accounts they are attracted. Such people can include friends, organizations, music entertainers, family members and other individuals with Twitter accounts. By default, the user profiles are public hence enabling anyone to access accounts they are interested in and view status updates and mention (Hsu et al. 2014, p.757). However, there is a functionality that allows users to set their profile as private. Notably, only their followers are able to see their post. Status updates from private accounts cannot be found on the search list. Direct messaging (DM) is another feature useful in sending messages directly to another follower. I find this characteristic particularly helpful when requesting for urgent information from an individual or institution. For example, when I experienced a challenge with loading prepaid airtime on my phone, I directly sent a complaint message to the service provider customer service Twitter page and my issue was timely addressed. A hashtag is another important inclusion which is normally a tweet that is preceded by the hash (#) symbol to messages on a particular topic (Chang 2010, p.3). Therefore, a hashtag optimizes the presence of a specific subject matter on the social media platform amongst thousands of images and messages. Essentially, hashtags are utilized to identify a trending topic. The identifiers can be customized by geographical location.

Figure 4: The below is a screenshot of trending topics

Source: (2018)

Theoretical Model for Twitter Usage

            The use of Twitter in different sectors of our human existence requires a hypothetical framework that anchors the social collaboration. Hence it is necessary to devise individual interaction in which assorted agents opt for a specific subset of space (Sloan, Morgan, Burnap and Williams 2015, p.115). In most cases, people consume information which they relate to from the platform and seek to increase number of followers to their account. On Twitter, people are not just consumers as is in the case of mainstream media but instead are also active producers of news and content (Bingham-Hall and Law 2015, p. p.2053951715597457).    Beginning from any original niche with a random length, we demonstrate that the dynamic process meets at the point where there is a maximum number of related users. Through application of the model, there is a reason as to why subscribers are concerned with the number of individuals following and liking their profiles. Park (2013, p.1643) observes that if they so choose, their decisions on sharing of ideas and opinions could expose them to unprecedented criticism since they often follow individuals with different perspectives.

            To effectively analyse the model with which Twitter is based on and get an overview of the different interaction patterns that occur within social space, I utilized digital ethnography which enabled me to use online observations to track the respondents online and intensely observe their tweeting behaviours which provided me with a direct contact with the social environment. Through this approach, I mostly observed the text messages and the photos taken by various participants of my study. Additionally, I proceeded to note down some of the issues that required much attention which included making a decision on different intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influenced online behaviours.  The below are some of the moments that I captured during my observation.

Figure 5

Source: Jungherr (2016)

Figure 6

Source: Park (2013)

Figure 7

Source: Livingstone (2008)

Figure 8

Source: Park (2013)

Figure 9

Source: Connor (2016)

Figure 10

Source: Ivan (2016)

Figure 11

Source: Matthew (2015)                                


Figure 5: My friends from the United States brainstorming on a presentation due for their company’s Annual General Meeting.

Figure 6: Classmates from the University of Sheffield posing for a photo as they wait for an inter-college football match.

Figure 7:

Followers from Southampton sharing their part-time activities.

Figure 8:

Graduation ceremony for some of the friends from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Figure 9:

A friend of mine, Connor Scullion updating his profile picture on Twitter.

Figure 10:

My follower Ivan White expressing his opinion on Twitter about the much talked about effects of Brexit.

Figure11: My friend Matthew O'Toole sharing his perspectives on Twitter about the political environment in the United Kingdom.

In a static case, retweeting of various messages plays a key role in the process of interaction among different agents. In this case, it is seen as rebroadcasting from an individual’s followers. The process gets new people to a specific thread where a particular topic is under discussion. From a network point of view, however, retweets form a direct link between agents provides a path to accumulate secondary benefits from other people who may not be directly following them (Howard and Parks 2012, p.362). As will be discussed, such actions contribute to sieving of information since application users do not necessarily retweet every post that they come across following the potential risk of losing followers. Consequently, in some cases, there is a conflict inflow of information through retweets.

            Furthermore, it is evident that information is not dispersed as widely as one might expect, even though many agents are interconnected with each other either directly or indirectly and news do not spread too fast since users are selective with the kind of posts they choose to retweet. As depicted in the gratifications theory, individual people have different needs and are motivated differently towards the use of Twitter for their day-to-day online interactions (Livingstone 2008, p.409) According to initial researchers on various motivations that contribute to adoption of social media spaces, escapism, information gathering and emotional release were implicated as major influences that pushed individuals to these sites. Hence, people are more likely to select use of Twitter as their primary source of information due to its content and experience.   

Twitter and Online Business Engagement

            Social media platforms have presented a suitable avenue for commercial businesses to actively engage their customers. Twitter has taken up this opportunity. Electronic word-of-mouth can have a significant impact on online marketing strategies since product exposure through Twitter influencers and retweets can generate more consumer interest. While observing disparities between online and offline market environments, Pfeffer, Zorbach, and Carley (2014, p.122) underscore the magnitude of actively involving their customers in the branding processes. The internet galvanizes consumers to access a wide range of information about firms and their respective products and services, which guides their purchasing decision making. Entry into digital marketing via Twitter is relatively easier because registration process is simplified and system’s concept spontaneous. Besides, the platform has a substantial media spotlight. Notably, for firms and companies seeking to boost their sales, the tool is usually of great essence.

            There exist several means that enterprises have developed marketing strategies online especially by leveraging on motivations of available consumers. Twitter is essential in provision of an avenue where content on products can be developed and disseminated. The platform has democratized the process. Advertisers here have improved value of their products made possible by the utilization of Promoted Products. Often, a majority of this product category is pay-for-performance. Through Twitter, companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola, and H&M have been able to market their brands, products, and services and amplified their online visibility (Palacios-Marqués, Merigó and Soto-Acosta 2015, p.1915). Precise targeting of appropriate audiences is accomplished through value addition to user’s experiences by distributing Twitter content to enhance company websites and applications. On this application, sales and marketing are anchored by the reliable global sales support team which ensures that advertisements are attracted and retained hence aiding the advertisers in the entire marketing planning and implementation phases to promote businesses. Firms can effectively conduct the campaign from the point where purchasing decisions are being made all through to actual optimisations with available advertising tools. Since Twitter inauguration, most marketing strategies adopted by organizations have largely been reliant on word-of-mouth and till now, the efforts have been geared towards intensifying and accelerating this mode of advertisement.

Cross Media Promotion

            Twitter has complemented a number of media platforms within the communications industry for years. Being one of the most influential social media avenues, some mainstream sources have in previous cases used it to derive global breaking news on several occasions. According to Nitins and Burgess (2014, p.296), the term has been utilized by marketers to refer to a situation where multiple sources work in collaboration with each other to promote their products and services across the industry sector. Most outlets have attained this through fostering sponsorships, licensing, product positioning and brand integration. The reinventing and reuse of content across involved parties is aimed at reinforcing operational efficiency of product and service promotion which has been common in print and electronic media. Nitins and Burgess (2014, p.301) observed that convergence between traditional media sources and disruptive technologies is an important aspect of newsgathering and dissemination process following shared resources and expertise. Twitter has been on a rising trend hence demonstrating how the shift from a specific product to a multimedia content approach can have a long-term approach.

            Owing to the user-generated content that is predominant on Twitter, most millennials have been searching for news from the platform. Such an explosive nature of breaking news on Twitter has supplemented the role of television stations especially on international issues. The avenue has carved out its niche in dominating global information dissemination (McCarthy 2011, p.57). Micro-blogging on Twitter is increasingly transforming the way pertinent issues in society are being addressed regarding sharing of daily activities and experiences. Such functions have had a broad range of social purposes which has gained popularity as an alternative to online social interaction. News and television stations have been under constant threat from emerging and innovative means of relaying information over a wide range of populations. Elsewhere, it has been noted that research into domestication of household communication and broadcasting gadgets has been stimulated by the need to shift from literal analysis into more detailed contexts of media consumption (Haddon 2006, p.198). The circulation of newspapers in the recent past has declined significantly as a result of the unprecedented social networks.

Twitter as a Tool for Connected Representation

            Concerns over internet potential in presenting new prospects for online campaigns and active participation of citizens in political activities have drawn much attention to the topic. Previous studies into this study simply showed that formalized online political campaigns leaned towards replication of a unilateral communication pattern that is synonymous with offline campaigning since they offered minimal actual opportunities for engagement of citizens (Bode and Dalrymple 2016, p.327). The successful use of social media and more particularly Twitter during the 2008 U.S elections has given more emphasis to the powerful role the internet can have in such democratic processes. Howard and Parks (2012, p.360) denoted that social media is increasingly providing an appropriate platform for politicians and citizens to actively engage development ideas in the political settings.

            Social media has risen to prominence for candidates and parties to convey crucial information to the public, galvanize their respective bases and connect directly with their constituents. As such, party officials shun mainstream communication avenues and instead adopt more digital means especially Twitter where they have control over the messages that they pass across without any intermediaries. For instance, during the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections of the US, the current president Donald Trump referred to some of the media houses as being sources of “fake news” (Wells, Shah, Pevehouse, Yang, Pelled, Boehm, Lukito, Ghosh and Schmidt 2016, p.673). More optimistically, the rapid shift can be interpreted as a reaction of the growing divide between the public and the ruling class. As Jungherr (2016, p.84) suggests, in major European democracies, conventional politics increasingly experiences challenges occasioned by a sharp regression of interest in political participation. According to the survey by Bode and Dalrymple (2016, p.330), it was revealed that approximately three-quarters of the public in Britain felt deeply detached from their parliament. Therefore, political office candidates, parties, and governments have recognized the influencing ability of the platform and are now directing more attention towards social media to bridge the ever-growing gap.

            According to some scholars, Twitter is actually effective in boosting the relationship between the public and their representatives which hopefully stands to translate to improved development in respective regions (Jungherr 2016, p.88). Such an optimism arises from the intrinsic attributes of the Web 2.0 technological advancements especially in the communications and media industry hence contributing to the active collaboration, networking, and interaction among the public. The Nationals are now being viewed as dynamic participants of political progress rather than passive consumers of political information. The perspective is rapidly modifying the outmoded relationship between the political elite and the subjects. With escalation of digital media culture, Twitter has played a crucial role in most political revolutions witnessed in the 21st century (Kwak, Lee, Park and Moon 2010, p.595). A classic example is the uprisings that have come to be referred to as the "Arab Spring" where activists resorted to social networking sites especially twitter to express atrocities committed by the dictatorial regimes in their respective countries. In Arab countries such as Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, the planning and execution of the protests was organized in social channels such Facebook and Twitter.

             Political communication has transformed over years. The dynamic relationship between journalists, public, and the ruling class has been abstracted to involve both horizontal and vertical dimensions. The political elite and mainstream media in most cases work in conjunction with each other and in others act as competitors and interact with their constituents. In this case, the vertical component involves association between the political players and the citizens. The relationship is experiencing a decentralization process (Howard and Parks 2012, p.361). By this, the public is now challenging legitimacy and credibility of entrenched politics and are gradually shunning complex political systems and instead preferring ingenuous channels of political communication. As a result, the rise of this new relationships and modified functions of politicians and general public has contributed to the emergence of contemporary concerns and challenges (Howard and Parks 2012, p.362). One of the major constraints is the increasing gap between political institutions and the subjects they serve which has been characterized by voter apathy, declining engagement in conventional political administrations, decreased participation of the public in civic duties and the breakdown of political affiliations.

Investigating Twitter and Designing the Methodology

Research Method: Content analysis and Questionnaire

            Initially, I was inspired to examine Twitter from a networking perspective as individuals are accorded the opportunity to interact with each other through the use of status updates. Of interest was the impact the state being always connected online had on existing social associations. Since I had a determination to find out what motivations people had to use the platform as a primary source of information, I developed a simplified set of questions for Twitter users. Apart from the questionnaire, analysis of the content included assessing the connotations of selected messages, themes carried and available mode of replication.  For these objectives, content analysis is a reliable approach in finding distinctions and identifying trends.


The abstraction of findings offers us with an insight regarding what attracted a specific subset to Twitter, how they are using it in their daily online interactions, the particular activities they engage in on the platform, whether they precisely answer the distinctive question “What’s happening”, how they choose what to post and whether they recognize their friends and followers on Twitter.

From the mini-investigation, all respondents claimed that the primary reason as to why they were appealed by the communication channel was because it provided an easy means of informing their friends and followers of activities and events they were participating in instantaneously. Most labelled it as a "fun tool" while others made a comparison to it as a "mini-blog" which allowed them to update statuses from their phones. Ninety percent of the respondents specified that they were active web subscribers who had blogs and that Twitter was not their primary platform to publicise their activities. They, therefore, had experiences with blogging with five percent of them noting that they viewed their interaction with Twitter as being different from blogging. In answering the question "What's happening", all the participants stated that it was not a decisive factor during posting and in choosing what to post, most of the respondents indicated that they made a clear distinction of what was to be private and public. Finding a balance between personal information and general activities that they engaged in and shared with friends was an important consideration. Most of them claimed that they avoided posting too much of their personal information on Twitter for fear of exposing their identity. Lastly, my investigation aimed at determining whether Twitter users knew their friends and followers and surprisingly, all participants claimed that they identified them either on a personal level or virtually. Most of them appreciated the platform’s user-friendly nature and were pleased that through Twitter, they had made a substantial number of friends online.


            The inquiry investigated the degree to which individuals were motivated to using Twitter and for what purposes. Analysing the tweet’s content was a significant technique which offered a framework to test and quantify Twitter appropriation. The platform has been extensively exploited in the political scene owing to the fact that information flow is almost instantaneous and can cover a huge landscape within a short time. Finally, the research has made efforts to examine underneath the technology’s surface to find out how it has transformed over the years and its emerging applications in the dynamic contemporary world. As the messaging uncovered, Twitter has risen to be a vital component in the lives of many people who have found an avenue where they can randomly share details of their daily activities. Beyond the study, there are wider and compelling implications to be explored especially on emerging concerns such as surveillance, data protection, and privacy, and possible impacts of face-to-face relations. Summarily, in its wholesome functions, Twitter discourses an inherent desire share and converse.  


Bingham-Hall, J. and Law, S., 2015. Connected or informed? Local Twitter networking in a London neighbourhood. Big Data & Society, 2(2), p.2053951715597457.

Bode, L. and Dalrymple, K.E., 2016. Politics in 140 characters or less: Campaign communication, network interaction, and political participation on Twitter. Journal of Political Marketing, 15(4), pp.311-332.

Chang, H.C., 2010. A new perspective on Twitter hashtag use: Diffusion of innovation theory. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 47(1), pp.1-4.

Connor, S. 2016. 25 January. Available at

Haddon, L., 2006. The contribution of domestication research to in-home computing and media consumption. The information society, 22(4), pp.195-203.

Howard, P.N., and Parks, M.R., 2012. Social media and political change: Capacity, constraint, and consequence. Journal of communication, 62(2), pp.359-362.

Hsu, Y.C., Ching, Y.H. and Grabowski, B.L., 2014. Web 2.0 applications and practices for learning through collaboration. In Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 747-758). Springer, New York, NY.

Ivan, W. 2016. 08 September. Available at

Jungherr, A., 2016. Twitter use in election campaigns: A systematic literature review. Journal of information technology & politics, 13(1), pp.72-91.

Kontopoulos, E., Berberidis, C., Dergiades, T. and Bassiliades, N., 2013. Ontology-based sentiment analysis of twitter posts. Expert systems with applications, 40(10), pp.4065-4074.

Kwak, H., Lee, C., Park, H. and Moon, S., 2010, April. What is Twitter, a social network or a news media? In Proceedings of the 19th international conference on World wide web (pp. 591-600). ACM.

Livingstone, S., 2008. Taking risky opportunities in youthful content creation: teenagers' use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy, and self-expression. New media & society,

10(3), pp.393-411.

Longley, P.A., Adnan, M. and Lansley, G., 2015. The geotemporal demographics of Twitter usage. Environment and Planning A, 47(2), pp.465-484.

Matthew, O. 2015. 14 February. Available at’Toole

McCarthy, A., 2011. Ambient television: Visual culture and public space. Duke University Press.

Newman, T.P., 2017. Tracking the release of IPCC AR5 on Twitter: Users, comments, and sources following the release of the Working Group I Summary for Policymakers. Public Understanding of Science, 26(7), pp.815-825.

Nitins, T. and Burgess, J., 2014. Twitter, brands, and user engagement. In Twitter and society (Vol. 89, pp. 293-304). Peter Lang.

Palacios-Marqués, D., Merigó, J.M. and Soto-Acosta, P., 2015. Online social networks as an enabler of innovation in organizations. Management Decision, 53(9), pp.1906-1920.

Park, C.S., 2013. Does Twitter motivate involvement in politics? Tweeting, opinion leadership, and political engagement. Computers in Human Behaviour, 29(4), pp.1641-1648.

Pfeffer, J., Zorbach, T. and Carley, K.M., 2014. Understanding online firestorms: Negative word-of-mouth dynamics in social media networks. Journal of Marketing Communications, 20(1-2), pp.117-128.

Sloan, L., Morgan, J., Burnap, P., and Williams, M., 2015. Who tweets? Deriving the demographic characteristics of age, occupation and social class from Twitter user meta-data. PloS one, 10(3), p.0115545.

Twitter 2018.

Wells, C., Shah, D.V., Pevehouse, J.C., Yang, J., Pelled, A., Boehm, F., Lukito, J., Ghosh, S. and Schmidt, J.L., 2016. How Trump drove coverage to the nomination: Hybrid media campaigning. Political Communication, 33(4), pp.669-676.

William, O. 2015. 24 March. Available at’Hara

August 01, 2023



Communication Technology

Subject area:


Number of pages


Number of words




Writer #



Expertise Twitter
Verified writer

I enjoyed every bit of working with Krypto for three business tasks that I needed to complete. Zero plagiarism and great sources that are always fresh. My professor loves the job! Recommended if you need to keep things unique!

Hire Writer

This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Eliminate the stress of Research and Writing!

Hire one of our experts to create a completely original paper even in 3 hours!

Hire a Pro

Similar Categories