Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

#JeSuisCharlie: Towards a Multi-Method Study of Hybrid Media Events

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Abstract:  This article suggests a new methodological model for the study of hybrid media events with global appeal. This model, developed in the project on the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, was created specifically for researching digital media—and in particular, Twitter. The article is structured as follows. Firstly, the methodological scope is discussed against the theoretical context, e.g. the theory of media events. In the theoretical discussion, special emphasis is given to i) disruptive, upsetting, or disintegrative media events and hybrid media events and ii) the conditions of today’s heterogeneous and globalised media communication landscape. Secondly, the article introduces a multi-method approach developed for the analysis of hybrid media events. In this model, computational social science—namely, automated content analysis (ACA) and social network analytics (SNA)—are combined with a qualitative approach—specifically, digital ethnography. The article outlines three key phases for research in which the interplay between quantitative and qualitative approaches is played out. In the first phase, preliminary digital ethnography is applied to provide the outline of the event. In the second phase, quantitative social network analytics are applied to construct the digital field for research. In this phase, it is necessary to map a) what is circulating on the websites and b) where this circulation takes place. The third and final phase applies a qualitative approach and digital ethnography to provide a more nuanced, in-depth interpretation of what (substance/content) is circulating and how this material connects with the ‘where’ in the digital landscape, hence constituting links and connections in the hybrid media landscape. In conclusion, the article reflects on how this multi-method approach contributes to understanding the workings of today’s hybrid media events: how they create and maintain symbolic battles over certain imagined constructs of social imaginaries of solidarity, belonging, contestation, and exclusion, a topic of core value for the theory of media events.

Keywords:  automated content analysis; Charlie Hebdo; digital ethnography; hybrid media event; social network analytics; Twitter



© Johanna Sumiala, Minttu Tikka, Jukka Huhtamäki, Katja Valaskivi. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.