Secondment Report #9: Uni DuE goes Down Under

From October 1, to January 1, I got the opportunity to travel to Brisbane, Australia, to work with our RISE_SMA partners Jean Burgess and Axel Bruns at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). My three-month secondment period at QUT in Brisbane served multiple aims.

The key focus of my stay  was to investigate misinformation distribution on Twitter and the role of social bots. A less tangible but nevertheless equally important aim was to create lasting academic relationships and immerse in the work culture of QUTs Digital Media Research Center (DMRC).

Starting off my stay, I was given the chance to visit the AoIR conference 2019 which was held in Brisbane and organized by the RISE_SMA partner QUT. This not only gave me the chance to meet RISE_SMA partner Dr. Raquel Recuero from Universidade Federal de Pelotas and connect with her, but to also meet my temporary work-colleagues from the DMRC in a casual environment, to discuss common areas of interest.

Working on the set goal to investigate misinformation distribution, I met weekly with Axel Bruns and his colleagues Tim Graham, Dan Angus, Brenda Moon, Ehsan Dehghan, and visiting PostDoc scholar Tobias Keller. Together with this group of experts the following two research questions were developed:

1. Concerning misinformation, what is shared on Twitter?

2. Who shares it [bot or human]?

3. Does the theory of motivated reasoning explain the sharing behavior?

As part of a bigger data collection, we selected one hyper-partisan right-wing media outlet that we analyzed. Tweet characteristics as well as the respective news source were manually coded and analyzed.

I plan to present the results at MISDOOM 2020 in Leiden.

During my stay at QUT in Brisbane, I also met with Kari-Anne from University of Agdar and Kim Hendrik Gronert and Dag Frantzen from the municipality of Kristiansand who came to visit in November. Our focus in those meetings was to establish a shared understanding of how both sides, academia and municipality, can learn and benefit from each other. We also looked at recent happening in the commune Kristiansand which involved a Quran burning and fierce reactions on social media.

Probably the greatest outcome of my secondment, next to academic achievements, was connecting with international scholars. Because I was able to stay for a considerate time of three months, I felt fully immersed at QUT. I was not only part of the scheduled RISE-SMA meetings, but was invited to guest lectures, talks, PhD workshops, DMRC presentation and meetings, but also celebrations. I can only thank my supervisor, Axel Bruns, and my PhD peers who made the stay more than worthwhile.

Short Bio: Magdalena Wischnewski is a doctoral candidate at the department of social psychology at the University of Duisburg-Essen. She is member of the graduate school “User-centred Social Media” and investigates, among others, motivated reasoning in political information processing, fake news, and social movements in social media. In RISE, she leads the focus group on fake news and narratives in social media.