Computational Social Science Winter Symposium

Helen Margetts was a keynote at the 3rd annual Computational Social Science Winter Symposium in Cologne, Germany. Details of her talk are available on the conference website.

The Computational Social Science of Turbulent Politics

Widespread use of social media is changing politics, by allowing ‘tiny acts’ of political participation which can accumulate in large-scale mobilizations through a series of chain reactions, where each act sends a signal to other actors, influencing their decision to join. The vast majority of these political mobilizations fail, but the ones that succeed are unpredictable, unstable and often unsustainable. This talk will discuss how we can research this new ‘political turbulence’ using two key computational social science methodologies. First, the modelling of large-scale transactional data can help to understand the distribution and shape of political mobilizations. Second, experiments can be used to test the effects of two forms of social influence – social information and visibility – that abound in social media environments and act as drivers to scale up collective action. In this way, politics is becoming simultaneously more unpredictable, through the leptokurtic distribution of mobilizations and the rapid rise of those that succeed – and more comprehensible, through the generation and analysis of large-scale data and experimental methods. …More details