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Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon and Ning Wang, University of Oxford
The Bridges and Brokers of Global Campaigns in the context of Social Media
Conference Paper
May 10, 2013

In May of 2011 a political movement emerged in Spain that, under the influence of the Arab Spring, occupied the squares of dozens of cities as a protest against policy reactions to the financial crisis; a few months later, the Occupy movement erupted in New York, borrowing some of the tactics of the Spanish protesters and taking the message of discontent against the financial system to a global scale. In May of 2012, the Spanish protesters went to the streets again to celebrate the first anniversary of the first mass demonstrations, this time as part of the global Occupy campaign. Protesters and media reporters converge in their view that social media play a significant role in the rapid growth of these mobilizations and in their internationalization; however, there are still many open questions about how online networks facilitate communication and, in particular, about how they integrate local flows of information. We examine this question using data from Twitter communication, sampled over a month in 2012, coinciding with the first anniversary of the Spanish (15-M) movement. Using the publicly available API, we collected about half a million messages containing information related to the Occupy and the 15-M campaigns. We reconstruct networks of communication using RTs and mentions, and we analyze the level of integration of information flows, shedding light on the users that act as the brokers in this communication exchange. Our findings help assess claims about the instrumental role of online networks in the dissemination of protest information and, more generally, about collective action in the digital age. Full paper and presentation here

 

We investigate how online networks mediate contentious politics by
analysing communication around a global campaign launched in May of
2012. We analyse about 450,000 Twitter messages related to the Occupy
and ‘indignados’ movements sent by about 125,000 users during the
period of one month, which included the demonstrations to celebrate the
first anniversary of the ‘indignados’ movement. We analyse the overall
connectivity of the network (to test how well integrated the two
movements are); the network position of brokers (to identify users posting
content relevant to both movements); and the robustness of the network to
node removal (to determine its resilience). We find that global
connectivity depends on a small percentage of users, many – but not all of
them – brokers, and that the two movements are mostly concerned with
their local struggles: the bridges connecting them channel just a small
percentage of all information exchanged. We use these findings to assess
theoretical claims about political protests in the digital age.
Keywords: contentious politics; digital protests; online social networks;
structural constraint; modularity structure; network robustness.In May of 2011 a political movement emerged in Spain that, under the influence of the Arab Spring, occupied the squares of dozens of cities as a protest against policy reactions to the financial crisis; a few months later, the Occupy movement erupted in New York, borrowing some of the tactics of the Spanish protesters and taking the message of discontent against the financial system to a global scale. In May of 2012, the Spanish protesters went to the streets again to celebrate the first anniversary of the first mass demonstrations, this time as part of the global Occupy campaign. Protesters and media reporters converge in their view that social media play a significant role in the rapid growth of these mobilizations and in their internationalization; however, there are still many open questions about how online networks facilitate communication and, in particular, about how they integrate local flows of information. We examine this question using data from Twitter communication, sampled over a month in 2012, coinciding with the first anniversary of the Spanish (15-M) movement. Using the publicly available API, we collected about half a million messages containing information related to the Occupy and the 15-M campaigns. We reconstruct networks of communication using RTs and mentions, and we analyze the level of integration of information flows, shedding light on the users that act as the brokers in this communication exchange. Our findings help assess claims about the instrumental role of online networks in the dissemination of protest information and, more generally, about collective action in the digital age. Full paper here.
 
 
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