The Challenge of Audience Research on Web 2.0: The Possibilities, Problems and Perspectives of Sentiment Analysis

The Challenge of Audience Research on Web 2.0: The Possibilities, Problems and Perspectives of Sentiment Analysis

Romana Andò (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-338-6.ch004
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One of the latest developments in audience research deals with the analysis of the views and opinions that individuals express in the social media web, where audiences share videos, comments, and grassroots productions about media contents. The wealth of information available on the web, the power of world of mouth, the relevance of phenomena such as blogs, microblogs, and social network sites, combined with the urgent need to monitor, control, and predict audience behavior has led empirical research – both academic and market-driven – to exhibit a renewed interest in quantitative research, with the aim of transforming the depth of content and the interpretative frames produced by audiences in standardized search categories. The aim of this chapter is, therefore, to reflect on sentiment analysis and its applications to the social web, reflecting on the opportunity to apply the instrument to media audiences, considering the context of the research, the critical issues relating to this approach, and the perspectives which relate to quantitative study.
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Web 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005) has significantly reshaped different aspects of media audiences’ contexts and practices.

The first change which has been brought about by Web 2.0 is related to the recent spread of convergent technologies, through which audiences can feel as if they are inhabiting a wider media space (Jenkins, 2006). This refers to a media space which they can not only cross as space-time interpolators – as Thompson (1995) wrote about the television and its function as a window out into the world – but one they can navigate, therefore seamlessly becoming a diffused audience (Abercrombie, & Longhurst 1998) because of the pervasiveness of online and offline media.

As the most recent theories on networked individualism have stated (e.g. Wellman, 2001; Castells, 1996; Rheingold, 2003; Marinelli, 2004; Comunello 2006; 2010) – thereby underlining the central role of the individual in the seamless coordination of online and offline networks – media audiences have coherent experiences in the online world and in the physical one; they can easily manage their social activities with other subjects, in environments where they can connect with others with whom they can exchange symbolic materials. The authenticity and ease of online relationships, together with their continuity with the offline world, has led us to study 'audiences on-line' – audiences that use the Internet as a space for a larger life experience, which is highly integrated with the features and performances they already experience offline – and not so-called “online audiences”, described as “online communities, online identities, online sociolinguistic patterns, cybercuture(s) relationships that emerge through CMC, and various other online social interactive human elements” (Kozinets, 2010, p. 64). The lives and cultures of online audiences are directly related to the online world, and the Internet itself becomes both a field and an object of research.

The second important change which has been introduced by Web 2.0 is that audiences have started to connect with each other once again, thanks to online sharing platforms, and they use these connections to perceive themselves as part of an audience (Livingstone, 2005). They are becoming more visible and noisy (Livingstone, 2004), and closer to the audiences that used to attend Shakespearean drama – expressing comments in real time, directly praising or criticizing texts – rather than being the passive couch potatoes described by large part of the existing scientific literature on television.

Audiences are aware that they are living in a world inhabited by other audiences, and they interpret their audiencehood knowing that other players will act as readers of their enunciative and textual products (Fiske, 1992). In the online context, the audience can be seen as a mediated product or as a performance in itself, as the barriers between the audience and the performance are being meticulously – and continuously – reconfigured.

Therefore, “this self-representation and self-performance of the audience-as-text therefore creates a second order or implied commodification insofar as the online fan audience consumes a textual construction of itself alongside the originating commodity-text, with the valued novelties of the latter crossing over into the equally novel and similarly valued speculations, rewritings and framings of the former” (Hills, 2002, p. 177).

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Table of Contents
Francesca Comunello
Francesca Comunello
Chapter 1
Sorin Adam Matei, Robert J. Bruno
This chapter discusses the emergence of social media, especially wiki environments, as collaborative knowledge tools that function within a given... Sample PDF
Individualist Motivators and Community Functional Constraints in Social Media: The Case of Wikis and Wikipedia
Chapter 2
Jenny Kennedy
This chapter proposes the concept of “networked spaces” as a strategy for resolving the problematic binary of online and offline. Networked spaces... Sample PDF
Conceptualizing Social Interactions in Networked Spaces
Chapter 3
José María Zavala Pérez
The rise of individualism and the enhanced prominence of subjectivity that challenge inherited identities and references entail the achievement of... Sample PDF
Registry Culture and Networked Sociability: Building Individual Identity through Information Records
Chapter 4
Romana Andò
One of the latest developments in audience research deals with the analysis of the views and opinions that individuals express in the social media... Sample PDF
The Challenge of Audience Research on Web 2.0: The Possibilities, Problems and Perspectives of Sentiment Analysis
Chapter 5
Miriam J. Metzger, Christo Wilson, Rebekah A. Pure, Ben Y. Zhao
A deep understanding of user social interaction in social network sites (SNSs) can provide important insights into questions of human social and... Sample PDF
Invisible Interactions: What Latent Social Interaction Can Tell Us about Social Relationships in Social Network Sites
Chapter 6
Sonja Utz
This chapter compares the SNS use of Dutch students across time and platforms. Between 2009 (n = 194) and 2010 (n = 212), many users migrated from... Sample PDF
Social Network Site Use among Dutch Students: Effects of Time and Platform
Chapter 7
Bernadette Kneidinger
This chapter discusses the potential of social network sites (SNS) as sources for both social feedback and trial platforms for social behavioral... Sample PDF
Sociability in Social Network Sites: Facebook as Trial Platform for Social Behavioral Patterns
Chapter 8
Geraldina Roberti, Alberto Marinelli
Such processes seem to be emphasized by Social Network Sites; in this chapter we analyze a sample of posts published on Facebook by fans of... Sample PDF
Branding Identity*: Facebook, Brands and Self Construction
Chapter 9
Martin Berg
Taking its point of departure in a critical discussion of the imagined dividing line between physical and digital spaces, this chapter demonstrates... Sample PDF
Checking in at the Urban Playground: Digital Geographies and Electronic Flâneurs
Chapter 10
Thomas J. Johnson, Shannon L. Bichard, Weiwu Zhang
This study uses an online panel of Internet users to examine the degree to which those who visit U.S. political websites and blogs practice... Sample PDF
Revived and Refreshed: Selective Exposure to Blogs and Political Web Sites for Political Information
Chapter 11
Barbara K. Kaye, Thomas J. Johnson
This study examined the influence of motivations for, and reliance, on social network sites on selective exposure (purposely seeking agreeable... Sample PDF
Net Gain?: Selective Exposure and Selective Avoidance of Social Network Sites
Chapter 12
Alessandro Lovari, Lorenza Parisi
The aim of this chapter is to describe how the use of social media, especially the use of social network sites, is influencing public communication... Sample PDF
Public Administrations and Citizens 2.0: Exploring Digital Public Communication Strategies and Civic Interaction within Italian Municipality Pages on Facebook
Chapter 13
Paul Emerson Teusner
This chapter offers a contribution to the ongoing research into networked individualism in late modern society from the perspective of religion... Sample PDF
Networked Individualism, Constructions of Community and Religious Identity: The Case of Emerging Church Bloggers in Australia
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