(Update: This post has been corrected due to my mistaken interpretation of Google Scholar search results – thanks to Deborah Lupton for the alert)
A Google Scholar search for academic articles published since the start of 2012 mentioning Twitter yields many pages of results.
The same search, but for articles relating to Twitter and health, also gives many results, including:
• a study investigating how Australian health organisations are using Twitter
• an article on mining Twitter for public health data
• and a study looking at use of Twitter to promote health literacy.
Meanwhile, “the power of Twitter” is the title of the email below that public health advocate Professor Simon Chapman recently sent to colleagues at the University of Sydney:
“When the Newtown gun massacre happened on Dec 14, I tweeted a link to a paper that Philip Alpers, Kingsley Agho, Mike Jones and I published in 2006, looking at what happened to gun deaths in Australia 10 years after law reform post Port Arthur.
I have 2,112 twitter followers, few of whom are gun control people. Twitter is an amazing vehicle to get your work in front of potentially thousands of interested people.”
Meanwhile, in another example of the power of Twitter for public health advocacy, this @GunDeaths account aims to tweet “every gun death in North America regardless of cause and without comment. Help us tell the story behind the statistics”.
It is a partnership with the online magazine Slate to provide “an interactive, crowdsourced tally of the toll firearms have taken since Dec. 14.” The data crowdsourced by the campaign is freely available for others to use.
It’s not hard to think of other ways this sort of approach could be used for public health campaigns.
And on other health-related uses for Twitter, below is a dynamic representation of a Twitter patient community, providing analysis of the conversations within the #rheum community last August (discussing all matters rheumatology-related).
Each second of footage represents about six hours. According to the video blurb:
“A pink node represents a member of this community as they are participating in the conversations or are being pulled into the conversations by being referenced or mentioned. The larger the node, the more central or influential that member is to this community.
A green link between two pink nodes signifies a conversation, a direct interaction between the two as they happen. The thicker the link, the stronger the conversation or interaction is between them.”
“Twitter is in one sense an unstructured madness. But just like in the chaos of real life, people create meaning and structure within the noise. Rules are few and are made up as you go. Communities are created in a spur of the moment. Some last, others fade away.”
Is there a more dynamic space in public health and social debate?