Digital Methods for Hashtag Engagement Research

Janna Joceli Omena, Elaine Teixeira Rabello, André Goes Mintz: Digital Methods for Hashtag Engagement Research. In: Social Media + Society, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 2056305120940697, 2020.


This article seeks to contribute to the field of digital research by critically accounting for the relationship between hashtags and their forms of grammatization—the platform techno-materialization process of online activity. We approach hashtags as sociotechnical formations that serve social media research not only as criteria in corpus selection but also displaying the complexity of the online engagement and its entanglement with the technicity of web platforms. Therefore, the study of hashtag engagement requires a grasping of the functioning of the platform itself (technicity) along with the platform grammatization. In this respect, we propose the three-layered (3L) perspective for addressing hashtag engagement. The first contemplates potential differences between high-visibility and ordinary hashtag usage culture, its related actors, and content. The second focuses on hashtagging activity and the repurposing of how hashtags can be differently embedded into social media databases. The last layer looks particularly into the images and texts to which hashtags are brought to relation. To operationalize the 3L framework, we draw on the case of the “impeachment-cum-coup” of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. When cross-read, the three layers add value to one another, providing also difference visions of the high-visibility and ordinary groups.

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