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Linking for influence: Twitter linked content in the Scottish Referendum televised debates.

Burnett, Simon; Bloice, Lyndsay



Twitter, the micro-blogging social media tool, has established a critical role in facilitating social engagement. Its low technical and economic barriers to uptake provide a readily accessible forum for public engagement with events such as televised political debates, and in this context provides a 'backchannel' to mainstream media, allowing users to comment on and engage in debates. Most recently during the 2014 Scottish Referendum, Twitter was used extensively by both 'Better Together' (pro-Unionist) and 'Yes' (pro-independence) campaigners. The aim of this research was to develop an understanding of the linked content present in tweets sent during three televised debates on the issue of Scottish Independence. Analysis of the linked content shows a broad subject proximity to the topics under discussion during the debates, but highlights the lack of specificity in relation to the peaks and troughs of Twitter traffic during the debates. The paper also highlights the use made of links to a variety of resources such as the mainstream media as well as more informal sources including user-generated image and video content to support political viewpoints, and argues that, while the use of such content is beneficial in terms of unifying perspectives, supporter activism and the gratification of the social need for connectivity, it does not act to convert political opinion.


BURNETT, S. and BLOICE, L. 2016. Linking for influence: Twitter linked content in the Scottish Referendum televised debates. Journal of information science [online], 42(3), pages 396-409. Available from

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 26, 2015
Online Publication Date Mar 18, 2016
Publication Date Jun 30, 2016
Deposit Date Apr 11, 2016
Publicly Available Date Apr 11, 2016
Journal Journal of information science
Print ISSN 0165-5515
Electronic ISSN 1741-6485
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 3
Pages 396-409
Keywords Backchannel; Linked content; Scottish Referendum; Televised debates; Twitter
Public URL


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