Been lots of talk about the role of social media in the uprisings during the Arab SpringBoth optimism and pessimism as regards the democratising potential of these platformsPraised a revolutionary tool, overcoming dictatorships, mobilising people of all genders and ages etcBut also questioned for allegedly representing a watered-down form of (non)activism. Social media producing an illusion of participationThis paper; closer look at #feb17 hashtag on Twitter; first day of protests in Libya
In media coverage of the Arab Spring, Twitter activity tends to be equated with = ”activism of the People” But who are ’the People’?What type of activism is there? Who are the activists? Individuals, media organizations, governments etc?- Dataset consisting of all Twitter replies (public communication between users) sent during the first 24 hours of protests in Libya (#feb17)A social network perspectiveDegree of centralisation, decentralisation and distribution?Which hierarchies or key nodes that dominate the discourse?- Also take a closer look at the actual content of the communication
This is the entire network; illustrating how communication flows between various twitter users.The tiny arrows indicate the direction of the twitter replies or mentions.The node size (also indicated by numbers) reflects how often a user is mentioned or replied to, by another user
A set of key clusters of nodes can be identified.We will look at these in turn.
- The first cluster; six prominent nodes; interconnected
These are a mixture of activist movements (@ShababLibya, @EnoughGaddafi), individual activists (@ChangeInLibya, @DJMeddi, @Cyrenaican), and one news media organization (@AlArabiya).
- The second cluster; seven nodes
- All are news organisations + one individual CNN journalist
- The third cluster is centered around one single key node.
This is an Al Jazeera journalist.---In sum:1. The communication as a whole, is centred around a small number of key nodes.2. These nodes are the twitter accounts of traditional media companies and journalists + a couple of activist organizations + a couple of individual, especially prominent, activists.3. We do not see much of the alleged grassroots mobilisation, but rather that such actors that dominate the traditional public sphere dominate twitter as well.
Still, the network map suggests that a lot of potentially interesting communication goes on in the periphery of the network.Or rather, in what appears to be the periphery if the measure of ”in-degree” is defined as the most important criterion of power.In order to analyse grassroots politics on twitter it is important to focus on these undercurrents as well.Reading and coding this communication closer we identified a number of themes:
4. going viral (retweeting information throughout the long tail of users to spread it to the entire network)
5. getting attention
So, what to make out of this layered multitude?Crucial understanding can be generated with the help of network theoryAll directed networks have an IN continent (nodes with links going IN), an OUT continent (nodes with links going OUT), and a central core (mutual links)These concepts are of use to give the answer to the question of who actually rules this twitter discourse.
Using network metrics to sort the users into these continents, we find that journalists and news corporations are to be found in the OUT continent. They are mostly receiving content OUT of the network.Activists however, completely dominate the IN continent as well as the CORE.They feed the network with information and make connections with each other.So while some traditional actors appear at the centre of a map based on IN degree, the actual agents and interactors of the network come into view if we take the direction of communication into more consideration.
- The main conclusions of this study are that… [see slide]
The activists in the IN continent and CORE are close to 90% North African.The news media representatives in the OUT continent are around 80% US and UK based.
- The pattern for the first 24 hours of the Egypt hashtag results in a similar pattern.
Mapping the #feb17 hashtag
Twitter Revolutions and Digital Uprisings<br />Mapping the #feb17 hashtag<br />Simon Lindgren<br />Ragnar Lundström<br />Umeå University<br />
Central Core<br />IN Continent >><br />OUT Continent >><br />Mentioning, or responding to, others but not getting mentioned or responded to -- i.e. feeding content INto the network<br />Mentioned or addressed by others, but not responding -- i.e. receiving (?) content OUT of the network<br />Mutually mentioning and addressing each other -- i.e. forming the uniting core of the network<br />
Central Core<br />IN Continent >><br />OUT Continent >><br />News corporations and other governments (US + UN) are tweeted to and about.<br />But they do not take an active part in the #feb17 twitter discourse.<br />Journalists, working for the news corporations, employ the hashtag to tweet about the events.<br />But they are not engaging, to any significant degree, in actual communication with core actors.<br />Activist groups and, predominantly, individual activists produce a large amount of input into the discourse.<br />The central core of the network is constituted by the exchange of content between these actors.<br />
add-on 1<br />activists on twitter<br />journalists on twitter<br />