The Wisdom of the Audience: An Empirical Study of Social Semantics in Twitter Streams

introducer: Fabien Gandon, INRIA Sophia Antipolis
author: Claudia Wagner, GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences
published: July 8, 2013,   recorded: May 2013,   views: 3676


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Interpreting the meaning of a document represents a fundamental challenge for current semantic analysis methods. One interesting aspect mostly neglected by existing methods is that authors of a document usually assume certain background knowledge of their intended audience. Based on this knowledge, authors usually decide what to communicate and how to communicate it. Traditionally, this kind of knowledge has been elusive to semantic analysis methods. However, with the rise of social media such as Twitter, background knowledge of intended audiences (i.e., the community of potential readers) has become explicit to some extents, i.e., it can be modeled and estimated. In this paper, we (i) systematically compare different methods for estimating background knowledge of different audiences on Twitter and (ii) investigate to what extent the background knowledge of audiences is useful for interpreting the meaning of social media messages. We find that estimating the background knowledge of social media audiences may indeed be useful for interpreting the meaning of social media messages, but that its utility depends on manifested structural characteristics of message streams.

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