From Dibble, Drouin, Aune & Boller (2015)

This time, something very much unrelated to my own research. A topic that has I’ve been quite interested in as of late is the effect of e.g. Facebook’s chat, and the algorithm that chooses which users to display at the top of the list, on people’s social and possibly romantic relationships. When discussing this theme, a friend of mine suggested a paper called Simmering on the Back Burner: Communication with and Disclosure of Relationship Alternatives.

The paper in question defines back burners as

people we are romantically and/or sexually interested in, who we’re not currently involved with, and with whom we keep in contact in the possibility that we might someday connect romantically and/or sexually. People can have back burners even if they’re already in a romantic relationship with someone else. Also, a former romantic and=or sexual partner can still count as a back burner so long as we still desire a romantic and/or sexual connection with them.

and goes on to note that most people have a number of them on their Facebook friend list whether currently engaged in a romantic relationship or not, most people do not tell about them to their partners (if they have any), most people identify their “closest” back burner as a casual or close friend, et cetera. I think my back burner count is probably lower than that of the average subject in this study, but I haven’t actually gone through my list, and then again, this study was naturally performed on American college students, a group whose social life is probably somewhat different from mine.

Interesting stuff. In hindsight, it is quite obvious that this phenomenon exists, but I very much like the name chosen by the researchers for it. I’m a bit sceptical of the results, though; according to the study, there’s a significant difference (statistically and substantially) in the number of “sexually desirable alternatives” identified by subjects depending on whether they are asked about back burners specifically or about contacts that they would like to be romantically or sexually involved with in general, and I’m not sure this should be the case. Also, as said, the study was done on U.S. college students, of whom most were of Asian origin (although this is probably more likely to mean that the study underestimates the phenomenon, if Asian Americans are more conservative than the average American).

Dibble, J. L., Drouin, M., Aune, K. S., & Boller, R. R. (2015). “Simmering on the Back Burner: Communication with and Disclosure of Relationship Alternatives”. Communication Quarterly, 63(3), 329–344. http://doi.org/10.1080/01463373.2015.1039719

From Clark (2016)

I argue that a hashtag’s narrative logic – its ability to produce and connect individual stories – fuels its political growth. — My case study of #WhyIStayed suggests that in the initial stage, hashtags that express outrage about breaches of gender justice are likely to invite online participation, while the escalation into online collective protest depends on the nature of interaction among multiple actors and their sociopolitical contexts.

A tweet can be about something as mundane as a user’s morning cup of coffee, but when combined with the networked power of hashtags, the political fervor of digital activists, and the discursive influence of collective storytelling, online personal expressions can grow into online collective action.

One of the areas I’m working on – hashtag activism, hashtag campaigns, hashtag advocacy, or whatever you want to call it, depending on your point of view – curiously seems to have been primarily advanced by the field of feminist media studies, with a journal with the same name having published three special issues on the subject in the past few years. This is one of the Feminist Media Studies papers, and it seems to argue that hashtagged displays of activism are particularly well-suited for online feminist discursive action, with the paper in question detailing how one particular hashtag was used to subvert mainstream narratives on domestic violence.

I think this is interesting stuff, even while I remain somewhat unconvinced of the practical relevance of it.

Clark, Rosemary (2016). “Hope in a hashtag”: the discursive activism of #WhyIStayed. Feminist Media Studies, 16(5), 787–804. http://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2016.1138235.

From Bruns & Stieglitz (2013)

There are three key areas of metrics which we suggest are of general use in the study of hashtag data-sets: metrics which describe the contributions made by specific users and groups of users; metrics which describe overall patterns of activity over time; and metrics that combine these aspects to examine the contributions by specific users and groups over time. Further, more specific metrics may also be established, but these soon become substantially more case-specific, and are no longer useful for a comparison of patterns across different cases. We discuss these areas in turn, and provide examples of how these metrics may be utilised for the study of individual hashtags as well as for comparative work across hashtags.

One of these days, I should just read through everything Axel Bruns and Stefan Stieglitz have published. This one, already a few years old, outlines some fairly simple but useful metrics for comparing hashtagged Twitter conversations and presents a few examples of such comparisons. Nothing mind-blowing, but it’s good that somebody’s put this stuff on paper.

Bruns, Axel & Stieglitz, Stefan (2013). “Towards more systematic Twitter analysis: metrics for tweeting activities”. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 16:2, 91-108, DOI: 10.1080/13645579.2012.756095.