Awarded Political Studies Association book prize

Professor Helen Margetts, Professor Peter John, Dr Scott Hale, and Dr Taha Yasseri have won the W. J. M. Mackenzie Book Prize at the Political Studies Association (PSA)’s Annual Awards in Westminster on 5 December 2017.

Now in its 16th year, the PSA Awards pays tribute to those that have made outstanding contributions to politics in the past year. Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action investigates political mobilization in a digital world. As people go about their daily lives using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, they are invited to support myriad political causes by sharing, liking, endorsing, viewing and following. Chain reactions caused by these tiny acts of participation form a growing part of collective action today, from neighbourhood campaigns to global political movements. Political Turbulence shows how most attempts at collective action online fail. Those that succeed can do so dramatically, but are unpredictable, unstable, and often unsustainable. …read more

Review in Political Studies Review

Rhys Crilley reviewed Political Turbulence in “Political Studies Review

One of the major strengths of Political Turbulence includes the authors’ ability to make complex concepts from a variety of disciplines easily understandable and applicable to analysing social media. They manage to navigate the reader deftly through disciplinary borders and a deep ocean of data while never losing sight of the political significance of their findings. Indeed, such an inter-disciplinary perspective is exactly what is needed when making sense of politics in the age of social media. …more

The full review appears in Crilley, R. (2017). Book Review: Helen Margetts, Peter John, Scott Hale and Taha Yasseri, Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action. 15(2), pp. 306-307. Political Studies Review. Sage. doi:10.1177/1478929917695302.

Helen on politics and social media in German

Author Helen Margetts spoke to Hendrik Lehmann of Digital Present on the opportunities and risks for politics in the age of social media. The article, in German, is available on the website of Digital Present.

Für eine bessere Politik müssen wir Forderungen an Facebook und Twitter stellen

Die Oxford-Professorin Helen Margetts spricht im Interview über Chancen und Risiken von Politik im Zeitalter von Social Media.

Frau Margetts, in Ihrem Buch »Political Turbulence« argumentieren Sie, dass sich politische Systeme, ähnlich wie das Wetter, immer chaotischer verhalten. Warum?

Zum einen generieren politische Systeme heute in einer Art Daten, wie sie es vorher nie getan haben. Noch wichtiger für unser Argument jedoch ist, dass Social Media sehr kleine Akte der politischen Teilhabe ermöglichen. Das ist neu. Davor war Politik viel schwerfälliger. Man musste einer Partei beitreten, auf die Straße gehen oder an Türen klopfen. Aufwendige Akte. In den sozialen Medien hingegen kann man sehr kleine Dinge tun, ein Like, ein Share, das geht schnell. Die Dynamiken, die das zusammen ergibt, scheinen sich mehr wie chaotische Natursysteme zu verhalten. Deswegen habe ich das Buch unter anderem mit einem Physiker geschrieben.

…Read more

Political Turbulence one of the ‘best political books of 2016’

We are honoured Guardian columnist and former political editor of the Observer Gaby Hinsliff included Political Turbulence in her column on the best political books of 2016.

For Westminster junkies, meanwhile, one of the most useful things I read all year was a dry tome by four academics on how social media interacts with politics to produce fast-growing but volatile grassroots movements. It’s no Boxing Day page-turner, but Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action (Princeton), by Helen Margetts, Peter John, Scott Hale and Taha Yasseri, sheds interesting light on the year’s great upheavals. …Read more

Social information and Trump

What role might social information have played in the Trump campaign? Political Turbulence Author Helen Margetts explores this issue in a blog post for the University of Oxford

Commentators have been quick to ‘blame social media’ for ‘ruining’ the 2016 election in putting Mr Donald Trump in the White House. Just as was the case in the campaign for Brexit, people argue that social media has driven us to a ‘post-truth’ world of polarisation and echo chambers.

Is this really the case? At first glance, the ingredients of the Trump victory — as for Brexit — seem remarkably traditional. …Read more

Brexit, voting, and political turbulence

We are still digesting the result of the UK referendum to leave the European Union, but it is clear many events were played out on social media under the varying influences of social information and visibility that we research in Political Turbulence. We explore these influences further on the Princeton University Press Election 2016 Blog.

On 23rd June 2016, a majority of the British public voted in a referendum on whether to leave the European Union. The Leave or so-called #Brexit option was victorious, with a margin of 52% to 48% across the country, although Scotland, Northern Ireland, London and some towns voted to remain. The result was a shock to both leave and remain supporters alike. US readers might note that when the polls closed, the odds on futures markets of Brexit (15%) were longer than those of Trump being elected President.

All these events – the campaigns to remain or leave, the post-referendum turmoil, resignations, sackings and appointments – were played out on social media; the speed of change and the unpredictability of events being far too great for conventional media to keep pace. So our book, Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action, can provide a way to think about the past weeks. The book focuses on how social media allow new, ‘tiny acts’ of political participation (liking, tweeting, viewing, following, signing petitions and so on), which turn social movement theory around. Rather than identifying with issues, forming collective identity and then acting to support the interests of that identity – or voting for a political party that supports it – in a social media world, people act first, and think about it, or identify with others later – if at all. …Read more

The Economist: A new kind of weather

A special report on technology and politics in The Economist examines questions of democracy, data, politics, and social media referencing the findings reported in Political Turbulence:

A new book entitled “Political Turbulence” come[s] to an intriguing conclusion: social media are making democracies more “pluralistic”, but not in the conventional sense of the word, involving diverse but stable groups. Instead, the authors see the emergence of a “chaotic pluralism”, in which mobilisations spring from the bottom up, often reacting to events. Online mobilisation can develop explosively and seemingly at random. …
Politics in the age of social media, the authors conclude, is better described by chaos theory than by conventional social science: “Tiny acts of political participation that take place via social media are the units of analysis, the equivalent of particles and atoms in a natural system, manifesting themselves in political turbulence.” One day, say the authors, it [might] be possible to predict and trigger such surges, in the same way that meteorologists have become good at forecasting the weather. …Read more (paywall).

Science: “Important series of creatively and rigorously researched insights”

Arnout van de Rijt reviewed Political Turbulence in Science Magazine. The review, entitled “The social revolution,” states that the book

… contributes an important series of creatively and rigorously researched insights into the social mechanics of Internet-based collective action, handing researchers a new toolbox of methods and techniques in the process. …Read more (paywall)

Referenced in The Guardian

John Naughton referenced Political Turbulence in his column in The Guardian entitled, “#Twitter crisis? Not if it decides that it can be a smaller, smarter platform.”

The Guardian Bookshop is also selling Political Turbulence for £17 with free UK shipping!

In a thought-provoking new book, Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action, Professor Helen Margetts and her colleagues at the Oxford Internet Institute provide empirical evidence that social media are starting to change our politics in ways not yet appreciated or understood. Platforms such as Twitter, they write, are providing “zero-touch co-ordination for micro-donations of time, effort, and money and are replacing organisations and institutions in some areas of political life. Indeed, organisations increasingly resemble social media platforms in the way they present themselves to the public, with facilities for commenting and encouraging the sharing of content.” …Read more

Reviewed in openDemocracyUK

Stuart Weir has reviewed Political Turbulence in openDemocracyUK.

A few years back I was intrigued and captivated, as a largely analogue political animal, by Paul Mason’s Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere on the revolutionary part that social media were playing in the Arab Spring and global politics. But for all the enthusiasm, anecdotes and insights, it was ultimately unsatisfying. Here now is a revelatory study, Political Turbulence, which looks more closely and systematically at why “it” – that is, significant collective action – “is kicking off”, and why, much more frequently, it doesn’t. …Read more