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What People Study When They Study Tumblr: Classifying Tumblr-related Academic Research

Attu, R; Terras, MM; (2017) What People Study When They Study Tumblr: Classifying Tumblr-related Academic Research. Journal of Documentation , 73 (3) pp. 528-534. 10.1108/JD-08-2016-0101. Green open access

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Abstract

Purpose: Since its launch in 2007, research has been carried out on the popular social networking website Tumblr. This paper identifies published Tumblr based research, classifies it to understand approaches and methods, and provides methodological recommendations for others. / Design/methodology/approach: Research regarding Tumblr was identified. Following a review of the literature, a classification scheme was adapted and applied, to understand research focus. Papers were quantitatively classified using open coded content analysis of method, subject, approach, and topic. / Findings: The majority of published work relating to Tumblr concentrates on conceptual issues, followed by aspects of the messages sent. This has evolved over time. Perceived benefits are the platform’s long-form text posts, ability to track tags, and the multimodal nature of the platform. Severe research limitations are caused by the lack of demographic, geo-spatial, and temporal metadata attached to individual posts, the limited API, restricted access to data, and the large amounts of ephemeral posts on the site. / Research limitations/implications: This study focuses on Tumblr: the applicability of the approach to other media is not considered. We focus on published research and conference papers: there will be book content which was not found using our method. Tumblr as a platform has falling user numbers which may be of concern to researchers. / Practical implications: We identify practical barriers to research on the Tumblr platform including lack of metadata and access to big data, explaining why Tumblr is not as popular as Twitter in academic studies. - Social implications This paper highlights the breadth of topics covered by social media researchers, which allows us to understand popular online platforms. / Originality/value: There has not yet been an overarching study to look at the methods and purpose of those who study Tumblr. We identify Tumblr related research papers from the first appearing in July 2011 until July 2015. Our classification derived here provides a framework that can be used to analyse social media research, and in which to position Tumblr related work, with recommendations on benefits and limitations of the platform for researchers.

Type: Article
Title: What People Study When They Study Tumblr: Classifying Tumblr-related Academic Research
Location: UK
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1108/JD-08-2016-0101
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JD-08-2016-0101
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: social media, social network analysis, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1534669
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