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Hashtag Publics

The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks


Edited By Nathan Rambukkana

This collection investigates the publics of the hashtag. Taking cues from critical public sphere theory, contributors are interested in publics that break beyond the mainstream – in other publics. They are interested in the kinds of publics that do politics in a way that is rough and emergent, flawed and messy, and ones in which new forms of collective power are being forged on the fly and in the shadow of loftier mainstream spheres.
Hashtags are deictic, indexical – yet what they point to is themselves, their own dual role in ongoing discourse. Focusing on hashtags used for topics from Ferguson, Missouri, to Australian politics, from online quilting communities to labour protests, from feminist outrage to drag pop culture, this collection follows hashtag publics as they trend beyond Twitter into other spaces of social networking such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr as well as other media spaces such as television, print, and graffiti.
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Chapter Three: #auspol: The Hashtag as Community, Event, and Material Object for Engaging with Australian Politics


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#auspol: The Hashtag as Community, Event, and Material Object for Engaging with Australian Politics



Critical, loud, highly discursive and polarised, the #auspol hashtag represents a space, an event and a network for politically involved individuals to engage in and with Australian politics and perform political participation and communication. As a long-standing institution in the Australian Twittersphere (see, e.g., Bruns & Burgess, 2011; Bruns & Stieglitz, 2012, 2013), the #auspol hashtag provides a potent case study through which to explore the material, relational and discursive dimensions of a hashtag public. This chapter engages with the use of this particular hashtag, both empirically and theoretically. In particular, we work through a number of models that can be used to characterise the #auspol hashtag: it is, at different times and even at once, a discursive community of users; a mechanism for tracking and engaging in specific political events; and an object of discussion and controversy in its own right.

We use our long-term study of the #auspol community as a case study for considering how hashtags can mediate public engagement with politics. In this way, we conceptualise the hashtag as an everyday material object that contributes to the unfolding of social and political reality. Tools such as hashtags are objects that are embedded in and materialise out of shared interests, issues and events. At the same time as they emerge out...

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