Social-networking services such as Twitter offer users the potential to participate in public debate. When used whilst watching a television programme, Twitter allows backchannel discussion and debate in real time, which can add a new dimension and pleasure to television watching. When used in conjunction with televised political debates, Twitter can enable audiences to participate in and respond to the debate, stepping into the public sphere whilst still seated on their sofas. This paper identifies the peaks and troughs in Twitter usage during three televised Scottish Referendum debates in autumn 2014 and identifies the topics that were the foci of such peaks and troughs. We argue that the issues that caught the most attention from the Twitter sample changed from debate to debate, suggesting that viewers were keen to debate the question of independence from all sides of the question. We also suggest that the sample responded most strongly to moments of political theatre rather than thoughtful debate and that they chose to wait until breaks in the programme, such as advertisement breaks, vox pops and spin-room discussion, to tweet. While this paper is mostly a quantitative study, the final section offers an introduction to some of the qualitative analysis of the collected data currently being undertaken by the team.
PEDERSEN, S., BAXTER, G., BURNETT, S., GOKER, A., CORNEY, D., and MARTIN, C. 2014. Backchannel chat: peaks and troughs in a Twitter response to three televised debates during the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign 2014. Aberdeen Business School working paper series, 7(2).