The advent and rapid growth of social media platforms offers a new context in which to study how countries are represented in the minds of media users.  In the past, these country representations, or images, were investigated through the use of survey research techniques. One drawback of survey research techniques is that the respondent taking a survey is usually aware that he/she is being measured, and this very fact might result in more calculated and less candid responses. By contrast, the social media context offers an environment where individuals express their thoughts without the encumbrance of a formal measurement session.

This project begins by investigating which countries were mentioned most frequently in Twitter during 2013 and what factors – country attributes, communication and economic resources, and contexts – can explain country presence on Twitter. Tweet mentions from 210 nations were derived using full fire hose archival searches. Our findings identify trends that differ from the patterns found in extant news flow literature. The results also suggest a new era of international communication via web-based social networks. Although core and semi-periphery countries are mentioned more than periphery countries, mobile phone penetration and sociopolitical instability seem to have reshaped the contours of country images, and only 28% of the 50 most-mentioned countries on Twitter were core nations. This study further discusses the implications evolving social media have for traditional news media outlets, world politics, and international relations.

More details

  • Aims at creating a research hub that focuses on country images
  • Initial team consists of researchers with the following expertise areas: international public opinion, international news flows, social media analytics, measurement modeling
  • Funding is currently sought to create a web-accessible knowledge base containing old and new studies and resources involving country images
  • Currently focused on funding and creating a web interactive tool that continuously updates country images as present on social media
  • Beginning in 2015 will seek to build searchable database for open distribution
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