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Highlights
Online Social Networks and Large Scale Social Movements

The recent wave of mobilizations in the Arab world and across Western countries has generated much discussion on how digital media is connected to the diffusion of protests.

We examine that connection using data from the surge of mobilizations that took place in Spain in May 2011. We study recruitment patterns in the Twitter network and find evidence of social influence and complex contagion. We identify the network position of early participants (i.e. the leaders of the recruitment process) and of the users who acted as seeds of message cascades (i.e. the spreaders of information). We find that early participants cannot be characterized by a typical topological position but spreaders tend to me more central to the network. These findings shed light on the connection between online networks, social contagion, and collective dynamics, and offer an empirical test to the recruitment mechanisms theorized in formal models of collective action.

Project4: Structure and Dynamics

The recent wave of mobilizations in the Arab world and across Western countries has generated much discussion on how digital media is connected to the diffusion of protests. We examine that connection using data from the surge of mobilizations that took place in Spain in May 2011. We study recruitment patterns in the Twitter network and find evidence of social influence and complex contagion. We identify the network position of early participants (i.e. the leaders of the recruitment process) and of the users who acted as seeds of message cascades (i.e. the spreaders of information). We find that early participants cannot be characterized by a typical topological position but spreaders tend to me more central to the network. These findings shed light on the connection between online networks, social contagion, and collective dynamics, and offer an empirical test to the recruitment mechanisms theorized in formal models of collective action.

This study is a follow-up work of our first incursion into the subject of online social networks and the diffusion of protests.
See what follows for more details.

This work represents our first contribution to a subject that has attracted a lot of interest in the last few years: the analysis of online social networks. The number of people using online social networks in their everyday life is continuously growing at a pace never saw before. This new kind of communication has an enormous impact on opinions, cultural trends, information spreading and even in the commercial success of new products. More importantly, social online networks have revealed as a fundamental organizing mechanism in recent country-wide social movements. In this study, we provide a quantitative analysis of the structural and dynamical patterns emerging from the activity of an online social network around the ongoing May 15th (15M) movement in Spain. Our network is made up by users that exchanged tweets in a time period of one month, which includes the birth and stabilization of the 15M movement. We characterize in depth the growth of such dynamical network and find that it is scale-free with communities at the mesoscale. We also find that its dynamics exhibits typical features of critical systems such as robustness and power-law distributions for several quantities. Remarkably, we report that the patterns characterizing the spreading dynamics are asymmetric, giving rise to a clear distinction between information sources and sinks. Our study represents a first step towards the use of data from online social media to comprehend modern societal dynamics.

 

  J. Borge-Holthoefer, R. A. Baños, S. González-Bailón and Y. Moreno, “Cascading Behavior in Complex Socio-technical Networks”, Journal of Complex Networks 1, 3-24 (2013); doi: 10.1093/comnet/cnt006.

  S. Gonzalez-Bailon, J. Borge-Holthoefer, A. Rivero, and Y. Moreno, “The Dynamics of Protest Recruitment through an Online Network”, Scientific Reports 1, 197 (2011).

  J. Borge-Holthoefer, A. Rivero, I. García, E. Cauhe, A. Ferrer, D. Ferrer, D. Francos, D. Iñiguez, M. P. Pérez, G. Ruiz, F. Sanz, F. Serrano, C. Viñas, A. Tarancón, and Y. Moreno, “Structural and Dynamical Patterns on Online Social Networks: the Spanish May 15th Movement as a case study”, PLoS ONE 6(8): e23883 (2011).