An investigation of state educational Twitter hashtags (SETHs) as affinity spaces


Affinity spaces are digital or physical spaces in which participants interact with one another around content of shared interest and through a common portal (or platform). Among teachers, some of the largest affinity spaces may be those organized around hashtags on Twitter: These spaces are public, largely unmoderated, and thriving, yet very little is known about them, especially those based in geographical areas such as American states. This paper examines these potential affinity spaces by providing the first large-scale study of them in the form of an examination of 47 State Educational Twitter Hashtags (SETHs). Collecting over 550,000 tweets over 6 months, our analysis focused on who is participating in SETHs, how active participants are, and when participation occurred. We found support for two of Gee’s tenets of affinity spaces, in particular many interactions through a shared portal. Though the content of tweets were not the focus, this study’s findings lend support to efforts to identify which particular SETHs will be best suited to subsequent analysis of their content and what times subsequent analysis might most productively focus on. We discuss implications for how we conceive of teacher professional development and suggest directions for future research focused on the content of tweets associated with SETHs.

E-learning and Digital Media