Tour de France on Twitter - discursive modes among sport audience tweets

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The very concept of professional elite sport has always been dependent upon media to propagate information and generate interest in the contests and the athletes. Simply, the thought of sport as cultural spectacles and mega-events reaching far beyond the local spectators is inconceivable without media coverage. Tour de France is an obvious case in point. Originally created by media, the newpaper L’Auto, as a mobile event happening on roads throughout France, spectators rely on media to follow the race (Dauncey & Hare, 2003). Describing this development as process of mediatization, Frandsen (2019) notes how Tour de France has always been profoundly dependent upon and formed by media. Television in particular marked a new chapter by affording improved opportunities for sponsor exposure to international audiences and thus was integral to the transformation of ‘Le tour’ into a truly global mega-event.
This development corresponds to what David & Millward (2015) describe as the first ‘digital revolution’ characterized by live broadcast media, which is digitally enhanced by satellite and cable transmission technologies. However, the focus of this paper is directed towards the effects of the second ‘digital revolution’ (ibid) relating to social network media and participatory culture. Fundamentally, social network media such as Twitter has transformed public space (van Dijck & Poell, 2013, 2015) and even though broadcast television remain central in “the sports cultural complex” (Rowe, 2003), new players are now partaking in the public mediated conversation about sport (Duncan, 2020). The network infrastructure and user-centered features of the digital society have resulted in more diverse, fragmented user habits as everybody are able to attend to and engage in different platforms and communities. In the digital media sport environment, traditional broadcast media are no longer sole providers of sport content, but compete with a range of alternative media outlets including new online-only sports media, as well as sport organizations and athletes who are able to communicate and interact directly with fans. Of primary relevance for this paper, sport fans produce user-generated content ranging from ordinary social media posts and comments to the longer formats of blogs or podcasts. Hereby they offer subjective framings of sport e.g. by
diving into niche topics, or offering skeptic or opposing voices towards sport events that diverge from the typically positive broadcast sport coverages (Rowe & Hutchins, 2014; Horne, 2017).
Indeed, sport and sport events are among the most among the most frequently discussed topics among users on social networks platforms. During the Tour de France, Twitter (like other social network media) enables a global, heterogeneous audience that includes teams and cyclists involved in the race, former cycling professionals, journalists and fans to engage with the televised race and with other Twitter users with comments, reactions, discussions and analyses. Following Hepp & Couldry’s call for the inclusion of “the everyday appropriation of [media events] by audiences and populations” (Hepp & Couldry, 2010: 23), attention will center on the variety of ways that audiences use Twitter as a platform to comment and interact as part of their Tour de France experience.
Specifically, the Twittersphere on a single day (stage 7) of the 2020 edition of Tour de France are examined with special attention to user types (who), content (what) and discursive modes (how). Regarding who, only tweets by profiles judged to be fans or general audience are considered, thus excluding tweets by e.g. commercial profiles, media organizations, Tour de France participants and ex-professionals. To capture the what and how questions, the tweets are examined through a theoretical framework including research on ‘mediasport’ (Wenner, 1998) and social media. This reflects an expectation that the tweets on the one hand will mirror traditional TV coverage, which is characterized by combining serious journalistic reportage codes and dramatizing entertainment codes (e.g. Rowe, 2003). On the other hand, given the individuality of social media, the tweets are expected to express affective, backstage-oriented behavior and performative, frontstage-oriented behavior, which frame Tour de France in a variety of personal experiences and contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date18 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2021
EventNordmedia Conference 2021 - University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
Duration: 18 Aug 202120 Aug 2021


ConferenceNordmedia Conference 2021
LocationUniversity of Iceland
Internet address

ID: 283446774