Emergent Twitter publics through political scandal : an example from the Covid-19 Crisis in the UK

Rathnayake, Chamil and Higgins, Michael and Smith, Angela (2022) Emergent Twitter publics through political scandal : an example from the Covid-19 Crisis in the UK. Journal of Language and Politics. ISSN 1569-2159 (In Press)

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This study examines how emergent Twitter publics are organised and engage with political scandal and personalisation during Covid-19 in the UK. The analysis is centred on a series of media events around Chief Adviser to the then-UK Prime Minister, running from May 2020 to May 2021. The samples comprises original tweets that contain key hashtags, amounting to 38,326 items. These are subject to topic model analysis to identify semantic fields, before using critical discourse analysis. We find hashtags help constitute emergent Twitter publics, and that tweets follow conversational patterns and conspire in tactics of intertextuality. Dissention to government conduct engages resourcefully with the affordances of Twitter: constituting publics, shaping discourse, and articulating with parallel discussions on political performance. Further, a computational approach can systematise the identification of domains of discourse and relevant lexical sets, providing an evidence-based understanding of even novel and emergent political discourses in online discussion.


Rathnayake, Chamil ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1964-2639, Higgins, Michael ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5903-952X and Smith, Angela;