image of a male singer from Ukraine on stage

Eurovision 2023: What Australian viewers can expect

11 May 2023
How fans are using social media to connect
Researchers from the Computational Social Science Lab at University of Sydney have conducted a Hackathon bringing together 20 Eurovision experts to analyse how fans across the world are engaging on social media for Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool.
a male singer in front of a giant face with the Ukraine colours on it

UKRAINE: TVORCHI rehearsing Heart of Steel for Ukraine at the Second Rehearsal of the Grand Final at Liverpool Arena. Photo: Eurovision 2023

The Eurovision Song Contest is an international cultural and political phenomenon. First held in Switzerland in 1956, it brought together seven nations to promote cultural diplomacy in post-war Europe. Eurovision was a radical step forward in media history, being the first to offer a live, simultaneous transnational broadcast. It has been watched by millions of viewers for over the past 60 years.

Eurovision has always been linked to technological advancements and the capacity to generate “live” audiences across national boundaries. Over the past decade, fans have increasingly used social media to engage with the competition, making platforms an exciting site for studying the social, aesthetic, and political aspects of this event. With this in mind, a group of Computational Social Science Lab researchers conducted the Eurovision Hackathon at the University of Sydney.

Hosted at the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC), the Hackathon brought together 20 Eurovision experts, early career scholars, and PhD students from five Australian universities, including Professor Anika Gauja (University of Sydney), Dr Jessica Carniel (University of Southern Queensland), Dr Oscar Vorobjovas-Pinta (University of Tasmania), and Professor Chris Hay (Flinders University).

Researchers worked in teams to incubate projects that apply innovative computational approaches to explore public online discourses and interactions surrounding the Eurovision Song Contest.

photo of a man with long blonde hair playing a keytar

AUSTRALIA: Voyager rehearsing Promise for Australia at the Second Rehearsal of the Second Semi-Final at Liverpool Arena. Photo: Eurovision 2023

Here are the three most important things for Australian fans and viewers to follow as they watch the 2023 competition:

1.     Participate in the public conversation on Twitter using hashtags such as #Eurovision, #Eurovision2023, #esc2023 and #SBSEurovision. Our research has found spikes of engagement at crucial points in the competition, which correlate with the popularity of songs. This tells a broader story of an online community that comes together in parallel with the physical event. Traditionally, Spain, Netherlands, and the UK are the most active fan communities.

2.     Watch the dynamics of the Australian preferences. Our analysis found that the boundaries observed and crossed by online audiences indicate that imagined communities are far more diverse and mobile than national diasporas. This means that in Australia, viewers are more likely to support songs based on their aesthetic, creative, or cultural values than for reasons of national belonging and affinity with certain countries.

3.     Reflect on the major geopolitical events. As seen in last year’s Eurovision, Russia’s war against Ukraine had significant implications on the so-called ‘bloc voting’. Looking at the historical voting patterns in the competition, European countries have traditionally supported those with whom they share values and/or affinity. Our researchers observed a shift in 2022, where a growing number of countries and their publics supported Ukraine in the midst of the Russian invasion. Australia, historically a steadfast supporter of Ukraine in the competition, has also expressed solidarity in #Eurovision2022. Looking at the Australian public conversations on Twitter, the public found multiple ways to show their support, including discussing the aesthetic, creative, and cultural dimensions of Ukraine’s performance and connecting it to broader causes and values of political participation.

photo of a female singer in a huge red dress singing on stage

PORTUGAL: Mimicat performed Ai Coração for Portugal at the First Semi-Final at Liverpool Arena. Photo: Eurovision 2023

The team of researchers will be following Eurovision semi-finals and finals over the next few days as it is broadcast from Liverpool in the UK.

Professor Anika Gauja, political scientist and Dr Olga Boichak, lecturer in Digital Cultures, director of the Computational Social Science Lab, are members of Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC).

Top image: TVORCHI rehearsing Heart of Steel for Ukraine at the Second Rehearsal of the Grand Final at Liverpool Arena. Photo: Eurovision 2023

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