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Hashtag Publics

The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks

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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 Four: Hashtag as Hybrid Forum: The Case of #agchatoz

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CHAPTER FOUR

Hashtag as Hybrid Forum: The Case of #agchatoz

JEAN BURGESS, ANNE GALLOWAY, AND THERESA SAUTER

INTRODUCTION: HASHTAG PUBLICS, HYBRID FORUMS

This chapter imports Michel Callon’s model of the ‘hybrid forum’ (Callon, Lascoumes, & Barthe, 2009, p. 18) into social media research, arguing that certain kinds of hashtag publics can be mapped onto this model. It explores this idea of the hashtag as hybrid forum through the worked example of #agchatoz—a hashtag used as both ‘meetup’ organiser for Australian farmers and other stakeholders in Australian agriculture, and as a topic marker for general discussion of related issues. Applying the principles and techniques of digital methods (Rogers, 2013), we employ a standard suite of analytics to a longitudinal dataset of #agchatoz tweets. The results are used not only to describe various elements and dynamics of this hashtag but also to experiment with the articulation of such approaches with the theoretical model of the hybrid forum, as well as to explore how controversies animate and transform such forums as part of the emergence and cross-pollination of issue publics.

We proceed on the understanding that publics are multiple and emergent—that is, they are constituted through their material involvement with issues and events rather than pre-existing as a ‘public sphere’ (Marres, 2012). Digital media platforms are transforming both the nature of such publics and the means through which they engage with issues (Papacharissi, 2010; Bruns & Burgess,...

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