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Exploring political discussions by Korean twitter users: A look at opinion leadership and homophily phenomenon

Myunggoon Choi (Department of Interaction Science, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, South Korea)
Yoonmo Sang (Department of Radio-Television-Film, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA)
Han Woo Park (Department of Media & Communication, YeungNam University, Gyeongsan-si, South Korea)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 11 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a network analysis of Twitter discussions about Myung-Bak Lee, a former president of South Korea, to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of the public opinion exchange on Twitter.

Design/methodology/approach

Opinion leaders in the discussion network were identified by considering the longitudinal distribution of tweets containing the former president’s name, and three types of messages (“followings,” “mentions,” and “retweets”) were analyzed using data collected from November 1, 2011, to April 20, 2012. The sample included 26,150 Twitter users and 892,034 relationships reflecting three types of messages.

Findings

The results indicate that the discussion about President Myung-Bak Lee was dominated by liberal Twitter users who already had considerable influence both online and offline. In addition, Twitter users were unlikely to interact with other users with opposing political views.

Research limitations/implications

Almost all of the opinion leaders identified in the study held liberal political views, and liberal Twitter users dominated the discussion network. In addition, the Korean Twitter network showed the presence of the homophily phenomenon, implying that opinion leaders’ influence within the Twitter network was limited to other users sharing the same political views. Further, political views of opinion leaders were skewed toward a particular political stance without necessarily representing the opinion of the general public, possibly hindering the democratic process.

Originality/value

This study tests the homophily thesis in the context of Twitter users in Korea and contributes to the literature on Twitter-based political discourse by identifying opinion leaders in Korean Twitter networks and examining the phenomenon of homophily within those networks.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Many thanks go to research assistants, Ji-Young Park, Ji-Young Kim, Seoung-Cheol Choi, Ji-Yeun Kim, Yun-CheolHeo, and XanatMeza. Also, the authors are grateful to the Editor and anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions. The corresponding author acknowledges that this research is partially supported by the WCU (World Class University Webometrics Institute) program of the National Research Foundation of Korea, funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (No. 515-82-06574). The first two authors contributed equally to this paper.

Citation

Choi, M., Sang, Y. and Woo Park, H. (2014), "Exploring political discussions by Korean twitter users: A look at opinion leadership and homophily phenomenon", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 66 No. 6, pp. 582-602. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-11-2012-0089

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited