A system-theoretical analysis of user interactions around Deon Meyer's Twitter profile: a reception study in the digital age

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Social media plays a major role in how today's people interact with their environment. The literary system is no exception: social media is used to market books, engage with readers, air opinions on works, and the like. Although social media has not yet been studied within the Afrikaans literary system as it has been studied, for example, with reference to Australian literature, social media offers a variety of opportunities to investigate how the Afrikaans literary system functions in the digital age. Because social media allows users to engage with writers and works themselves, it creates new opportunities to focus specifically on the reader.

The current study explores one such interaction: the discourse on Twitter around Deon Meyer's Twitter profile (@MeyerDeon) (in other words, Meyer's Twitter profile as well as other users engaging with him) from 9 November 2018 to 9 May 2019. 1 157 tweets were collected over this six-month period, 971 of which are unique tweets (the rest are retweets), and 581 unique users posted an average of 6,24 tweets per day.

It is indicated that the most popular application used is Twitter for iPhone, followed by Twitter for Android. This indicates the growing importance of mobile technology; in other words, when people talk to and about Deon Meyer on Twitter, they do so from smartphones rather than a computer. The language in which tweets were posted was also investigated and it was found that 62% of tweets and 68% of users posted tweets in English, followed by Afrikaans (23% of tweets and 28% of users), Dutch (9% of tweets and9 % of users) and French (3% of tweets and 2% of users). Most users tweeting about Deon Meyer were located in South Africa, followed by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, with a total of 21 countries (of those where a location was indicated) and 103 cities (of those where a location was indicated). The discourse on Twitter around Deon Meyer from South Africa was predominantly in English (63%), while 27% of tweets from South Africa were in Afrikaans. When users from abroad posted about Deon Meyer in Afrikaans, it was mostly from countries to which many South Africans have moved: the USA, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Australia.

Of Meyer's works, Prooi was mentioned the most (33% of tweets that mention a book) and also by the largest number of users (36% of users that mention a book). Hereafter Fever was the most frequently mentioned, followed by The woman in the blue cloak.

The nature of tweets was also investigated by classifying tweets as marketing, opinions or general interactions. Opinions were further classified as positive or negative. It was found that of the tweets representing opinions, almost all were positive (99%), but negative examples were also highlighted. The majority (55%) of tweets were diverse interactions, for example congratulations to Bennie Griessel on his birthday on 21 March or Deon Meyer answering compliments. This shows how Twitter provides a platform for Meyer to engage with his readers. There were also some users who said that they use Meyer's books to learn Afrikaans, which is an indication that Meyer's works are also used for more than just recreation. Just over a quarter (26%) of tweets were marketing-oriented and included tweets about book launches and competitions.

A network analysis was also undertaken and through in- and outdegree, hubs and authorities, as well as PageRank, it was found that Twitter provided Meyer with a platform where he could engage directly with readers and thus establish his brand more firmly among an international audience. However, there were other role players who were highlighted by a network analysis, such as publishers, reviewers, book discussion platforms and readers. Although Twitter represents only one component of the entire literary system, it is, in other words, a system within which various types of role players function. 

Limitations of the study, especially because of a limited timeframe and the issue of representativity, were also discussed.

The study shows that, in addition to reviews and questionnaires, Twitter can also be used to determine readers' views of a writer's works. Furthermore, Twitter represents another platform within the literary system where several role players actively engage with one another. It is also proposed that social media platforms should also be archived to facilitate future research.

Keywords: Deon Meyer; networks; systems theory; social media; social network analysis; Twitter


Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans

’n Sisteemteoretiese ontleding van gebruikersinteraksies rondom Deon Meyer se Twitter-profiel: ’n resepsiestudie in die digitale era


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