Tag Archives: social media

Hashtag Functions in the Protests Across Brazil

Reviewed By: Melissa Balok, Edward Pantoja, Marie Ingram, Chloe Noland, Emma Weinberg

Link to article: http://sgo.sagepub.com/content/5/2/2158244015586000

In the world of Web 2.0, tagging behavior is emerging as an important area of qualitative research for studies interested in learning more about language, community, cultural identity, and much more. In this article, Recuero et al (2015) perform a qualitative study on the use of hashtags and tagging behavior on Twitter in a specific political and regional area: the June 2013 political protests in Brazil. By comparing the localized tweets to “a theoretical background of the use of Twitter and hashtags in protests and the functions of language” (Recuero et al, 2015), the study was able to manifest not only specific context-based trends in tagging behavior, but also identify larger trends in virtual communication, personal incentive, and emotional versus recruiting behaviors.

The article begins by giving a history of the political climate and state of Brazil at the time the hash-tagging sample was occurring. The authors explain how tweets at this time were used as both a mobilization tool by protesters, as well as a way for the community to keep abreast of real-time occurrences at the rallies. This personalization of politics is further exemplified through a discourse on the effects of social media on people’s social movements, personal lives, and documentation/spreading of information during critical times. Delving into the function of language, which can be broken up into six main sections, the authors applied these linguistic classifications to the conversational and organizational quality of tweeting. Core research questions included: what are the types and communicative functions of hashtags used during protests; how do co-occurrences of hashtags depict different meanings and functions; and what are the trends in hash-tagging behavior of users as events unfold over time?

Dealing with an overwhelming content-base, Recuero et al (2015) methodically analyzed a large dataset of tweets. 2,321,249 tweets were analyzed between June 13-20 in 2013. These dates were chosen because they consisted of the most Twitter activity during the protest. To effectively create and organize a large dataset, 35 keywords were tracked and inputted into the open source software yourTwapperkeeper to archive tweets that contained keywords. Researchers then attempted to classify the meaning of hashtags and their co-occurrences. Answers to these questions helped to create a context around the function of hashtags and how different co-occurrences could depict different meanings.

In order to objectively analyze the large dataset, Recuero et al (2015) used a coding procedure to categorize hashtags. Jakobson’s (1960) model of six main language functions was used to categorize hashtags according to their linguistic and communicative purposes. From this basic foundation for classification, hashtags which were found together within the same tweet were also classified. Due to the overlap of functions in a single tweet, a hierarchy was needed to establish and identify the dominant function of each tweet. The criteria used to determine the dominant function was to ask, “What is the purpose of this message?” Co-occurrences were also used with the previous criteria in order to categorize tweets. Lastly, the 500 most retweeted tweets were analyzed using similar mechanisms to create a context around the quantitative analysis.

Classification of the hashtags within the dataset were thus painstakingly paired to each of Jakobson’s (1960) six language functions. Contextual hashtags that frequently related to geographical location – where the event was happening – were classified as “referential”. Hashtags which indicated user emotion, thought and opinion, including protesters’ demands, were labeled as “expressive/emotive”. “Conative” hashtags were those that urged action and served to motivate other protestors, and “metalingual” hashtags, which referred to the content of the tweet.

In regards to the co-occurrences, the authors found that the most prominent types of hashtags that occurred together were conative-conative, encouraging action and strengthening the message through emphasis. Conative-referential hashtags were also preeminent, combining the call to mobilize with a physical location. Referential-referential hashtags helped to spread contextual information. Other co-occurrences of hashtags functioned to mobilize through opinions/demands, to contextualize the tweet in entirety, or to “sign” the tweet. Re-tweeted tweets were also analyzed, finding that most re-tweets were focused on the live events of the protests as they unfolded.

Overall, the results demonstrated tagging behavior during the protests in Brazil to have several functions: to call others to action, to align and coordinate protesters, to share information including metadata regarding content, and to express and support opinions.

Questions and Further Research
It would be interesting to see studies conducted with the same classification of tweets and hashtags that this study created, but with examination of different protests in different countries. A comparison of the results with the protests in Brazil could make for a better qualitative understanding of how different countries use hashtags, in addition to furthering examination of tagging behavior across countries. Additional questions that come to mind: do Internet users use hashtags in the same way, regardless of language and country of origin? This could lead to bigger behavior studies regarding humans and Internet behavior in general and how humans adapt to technology. Alternately, is there evidence of similar tagging behavior in applications that allow more than 140 characters per post? Recuero et al (2015) briefly mention that the character limit on Twitter could potentially cause users to eliminate tags that are not as important. This leads one to ask, what information about the protests is missing from Twitter? Could additional information be found on alternative ICT platforms, such as Facebook?


Jakobson, R. & Sebeok, T. (1960). Linguistics and poetics. Style in Language, p. 350-377. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Recuero, R., Zago, G., Bastos, M.T., & Araujo, R. (2015). Hashtag functions in the protests across Brazil. Sage Open Journals, published 11 May 2015, doi: 10.1177/2158244015586000

Education Remix: New Media, Literacies, and the Emerging Digital Geographies

By Sara Evans, Jessica Gilbert Redman, Joanne Rumig, & Marcia Seaton-Martin

Link to article: http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/dce1034_vasudevan_2010.pdf

Article Synopsis & Core Research Questions

Vasudevan (2010) explores the way in which emerging digital geographies are making a difference in the way our youth population are being educated today, whether in the classroom or outside the school, as well as how technology is changing the way in which they communicate with their peers and teachers. Her research focus is to examine the types of digital spaces that youth are participating in and how they can be incorporated into current education practices. YouTube, Flickr, and other digital literacies such as cell phones, mp3 players, social networking sites, and virtual worlds have all contributed to this movement where students are engaged in the learning process both online and in the classroom. This affects the instruction models and assessment tools already in place.

In this particular article Vasudevan examines the social media practices and the technologies used by two youths, Joey and EJ, that are currently involved in an alternative to incarceration program (ATIP). Using portable technologies, Joey and EJ explored digital geographies in various workshops and improved writing skills using various digital spaces. In both examples the relationships between literacies and modalities are highlighted, and how their experiences will shape curriculum design in youth education.

Methods Used

The primary methods employed are case study examples from Joey and EJ in the ATIP workshops. Both completed different creative projects in different cycles of the program. Joey’s project was a part of a digital media workshop, where students were asked to create “movies,” and EJ’s project was a part of a larger program called The Insight Theatre Project, where students were asked to co-write scripts which were performed by other participants. The researchers used ethnography styled approaches to examine the processes of the either student in creating their projects, though these approaches were complicated by the students immersion in virtual spaces where the researcher could not necessarily situate themselves.The focus, however, was examining how either project highlighted the digital literacy and level of media engagement of the student, and how either changed throughout the course and with the addition of more virtual spaces for the students to occupy.

Findings & Conclusions

As a result of the digital medial workshop, Joey was able to use a digital camera not only as a tool but as a space to show the layered geography of his life. He used his PSP as a tool to transfer files from the camera to his online profile, while gaining new skills of customizing backgrounds and uploading music and multimedia poems. Through the use of ProTools, Joey was able to create beats for his multimedia narrative and later create a collection of beats for other multimodal compositions. He got a renewed sense of exploring his personal history with the PSP and the digital camera.

EJ began to navigate new spaces, starting with writing blogs, which helped him develop more of an appreciation for multiple audiences. With the blogging and observations he made, he started to identify himself not only as an intern but also as an ethnographer. As his composing evolved, his digital geographies began to include Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. By accessing many digital composing spaces, EJ was able to participate in new communities, be recognized for new identities, and gain new audiences.

“By paying attention to digital geographies, particularly the navigation across digital spaces and orchestration of multiple modalities, educators can cultivate youth’ literacies while at the same time inspire new sites of education” (Vasudevan, 2010, p. 79).

Further Research Opportunities & Unanswered Questions

Given the few student examples we see, it would be interesting to see how students use the digital landscape on a wider basis. One student uses technology in interesting and unusual ways, but how common is this “thinking outside the box”? What percentage of students get to know their technology this well, so they are able to think up new ways to use the technology? It would be helpful to know what students are using and to what point they are being creative with technology.

We often see students who are so-called digital natives who do not have what many consider basic digital skills (e.g., being able to enter a web address in the address bar of a browser instead of using Google to find the site and then clicking on it from the search results). Based on these observations, how many students are actively and eagerly participating in furthering their technological skills and knowledge beyond what is required for basic interpersonal communication (texting, Facebook, etc.)? By this, what we really want to know is if the Joeys and the EJs of the student world are outliers or if they are the norm. How much technological inquisitiveness can we expect from the average student? Are they willing (and/or able) to go above and beyond the normal requirements of a task or project to learn new skills or to bring together disparate skills in order to create something new?

Is it logical to believe that schools should have such varied types of technology (such as gaming systems or different types of computer OSes) available to students, just in case they might be able to use it creatively? Beyond that, do budgets allow for this possibility?

With schools fighting the influx of technology by often passing “screens down” or “phone basket” (where students put their phones in a basket upon entering a classroom to avoid the temptation of looking at it throughout class) regulations school-wide, where is the happy medium to make sure students are using technology effectively but not tuning out during the school day?

Vasudevan, L. (2010). Education remix: New media, literacies, and the emerging digital geographies. Digital Culture & Education, 2(1). Retrieved from http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com