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What are we missing? An empirical exploration in the structural biases of hashtag-based sampling on Twitter

A Research Paper by Pieter Verdegem, published by First Monday
by Evelien D’heer, Baptist Vandersmissen, Wesley De Neve, Pieter Verdegem, Rik Van de Walle.

The hashtag is a recognized and often used method to collect Twitter messages. However, it has its limits with respect to the inclusion of follow-messages, or @replies, that do not contain a hashtag. This paper explored to what extent the inclusion of non-hashtagged responses affected the study of interactions between Twitter users. We drew from the Twitter debate on the 2014 Belgian elections, collected under the #vk2014 hashtag. Our dataset included non-hashtagged responses to assess (1) how they differ from hashtagged responses; and, (2) how this affects the conversation network. The findings showed that (1) hashtagged responses were more likely to include other interactive elements (e.g., hyperlinks); and, (2) the inclusion of non-hashtagged responses generated larger and more reciprocal networks. However, central users further strengthened their position in the network.


Keywords: Twitter; Methodology; Hashtag; Elections; Conversation


Full Text: HTML

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v22i2.6353



Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash

Pieter Verdegem


Dr Pieter Verdegem is Reader in Technology and Society in the Westminster School of Media and Communication and member of CAMRI (the Communication and Media Research Institute).

His research investigates the political economy of media and communication and the impact of digital technologies on society.

He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and teaches core undergraduate and postgraduate modules every year.

Prior to joining the Westminster School of Media and Communication, he was Assistant Professor in New Media and ICT in the Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium (2012-2016) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Informatics and Media, Uppsala University, Sweden (2011-2012). He holds a PhD in Communication Sciences from Ghent University.


22 February 2017
Published By
First Monday
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CAMRI | What are we missing? An empirical exploration in the structural biases of hashtag-based sampling on Twitter - CAMRI
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