Science communication and the nature of the social media audience: Breaking and spreading of science news on Twitter in the South African context

Van Rooyen, Renier Stephanus (2017-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Twitter has been shown to be a powerful medium for the breaking and spreading of news and science news. In this study the TAGS v6.0 software and the Gephi graph visualisation platform are used to visually analyse how, and by whom, various science news stories were actually spread on Twitter in real-time, in order to determine who are the most prominent disseminators of science news globally as well as in the South African context. This is measured in terms of total number of retweets per Twitter account. The conclusion is made that the Twitter audience tends to retweet mainly from sources that they know and trust to be true and accurate. This has implications for how science communicators ought to go about understanding the nature of the social media audience. The study shows that globally major scientists and scientific institutions use public trust on Twitter to great effect to successfully communicate science, but that science communication role players in South Africa have so far failed to realise Twitter’s potential. Recommendations are made for how South African scientists, science institutions and science journalists ought to best exploit the platform to enhance the effective communication of sound, evidence-based science.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Daar is al bewys dat Twitter ’n kragtige medium is om nuus, en wetenskapnuus, te breek en te versprei. In hierdie studie word die TAGS v6.0-sagteware en die Gephi grafiese visualiseringsplatform gebruik om visueel uit te beeld hoe, en deur wie, verskeie wetenskapnuusstories intyds op Twitter versprei het, om sodoende vas te stel wie die mees prominente verspreiders van wetenskapnuus is op globale vlak, sowel as in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks. Dit word gemeet aan die maatstaf van die grootste aantal ‘retweets’ per profiel. Die gevolgtrekking word gemaak dat die Twitter-gehoor hoofsaaklik twiets versprei (retweet) afkomstig van bronne wat hulle ken en vertrou om waar en akkuraat te wees. Dit het gevolge vir hoe wetenskapkommunikeerders te werk behoort te gaan om die aard van die sosiale media-gehoor te verstaan. Die studie wys dat gesaghebbende wetenskaplikes en wetenskaplike instansies op internasionale vlak die publiek se vertroue baie effektief op Twitter benut om wetenskap te kommunikeer, maar dat wetenskapkommunikasie-rolspelers in Suid-Afrika tot dusver gefaal het om Twitter se potensiaal te benut. Aanbevelings word gemaak oor hoe Suid-Afrikaanse wetenskaplikes, wetenskaplike instansies en wetenskapjoernaliste te werk moet gaan om die platform bes moontlik te benut vir die verbeterde effektiewe kommunikasie van behoorlike, bewys-gestaafde wetenskap.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/100908
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