Posts

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

DW interview

Helen Margetts spoke with Deutsche Welle last week about the book and a range of topics from the role of social media in mobilizations to the (lack of) sustainability of social media campaigns. An article reporting their conversation is available at http://dw.com/p/1HpSV.

Political Turbulence: we’re ‘dripping with data’ and it may make democracy better

Do social media shape collective action? Professor Helen Margetts, co-author of a new book called “Political Turbulence” says they do. By allowing us to make “micro-donations” it’s easy to join a cause. …Read more.

Reviewed in Times Higher Education

Ivor Gaber reviewed Political Turbulence on 21 January in Times Higher Education (THE).

“Chaotic pluralism…a new kind of pluralism, highly decentred and chaotic” is what we’re living through, if we are to believe the authors of Political Turbulence. The authors, whose disciplinary backgrounds range across political science, computational science and physics, argue that this new status quo has resulted from the intrusion, if that’s the right word, of social media into the political sphere, an intrusion that they describe as “unstable, unpredictable and often unsustainable”. …Read more

Computational social science: A new social physics

Taha Yasseri is talking about how the data from digital technology we use everyday can be used in Computational Social Science.

This talk is part of the University of Aberdeen’s Festival of Social Science and Science in the Quad Season 3, Institute of Physics in Scotland.

Here is the blurb of the talk:

As digital technologies, the Internet, and social media become increasingly integrated into society, our daily lives generate unprecedented quantities of digital data. These data provide opportunities to study complex social systems in frameworks similar to those of the natural sciences. We will discuss these new opportunities and the latest advancements in Computational Social Science.…Learn more (pdf)

The role of “others” in social media activism

Taha Yasseri is talking about online activism at the Royal Academy of Arts’ programme Digital (Dis)connections: Ai Weiwei Late on Saturday 24th October.

Here is a blurb of his talk:

Humans are self-determining. Or are they? How much are we influenced by social pressure and influence from our peers and how do they affect the decisions that we make “on our own”? What’s the role of the Internet and specifically social media when it comes to our participation in online political (and nonpolitical) activities? Are social media only new tools and environments for the same type of pre-Internet political activities or they are fundamentally transforming the forms and dynamics of participation?..Learn more

Helen Margetts on Start the Week

Lead author, Helen Margetts, discussed Political Turbulence on BBC Radio 4 in October 2015. Listen to the interview or download an MP3 from the BBC website.

On Start the Week Tom Sutcliffe talks to the American writer Jonathan Franzen about his latest novel, Purity. One of Franzen’s characters compares the Internet with the East German Republic and he satirises the utopian ideas of the apparatchik web-users. The head of the Oxford Internet Institute, Helen Margetts, counters with her research on the success and failure of political action via social media. The artist Tacita Dean laments the ubiquity of digital at the expense of film, and the financial journalist Gillian Tett roots out tunnel vision – both personal and business – in her new book on silos.…Listen now

Publication: Leadership without Leaders?

Our journal article entitled Leadership without Leaders? Starters and Followers in Online Collective Action has been published in Political Studies.

The Internet has been ascribed a prominent role in collective action, particularly with widespread use of social media. But most mobilisations fail. We investigate the characteristics of those few mobilisations that succeed and hypothesise that the presence of ‘starters’ with low thresholds for joining will determine whether a mobilisation achieves success, as suggested by threshold models. We use experimental data from public good games to identify personality types associated with willingness to start in collective action. We find a significant association between both extraversion and internal locus of control, and willingness to start, while agreeableness is associated with a tendency to follow. Rounds without at least a minimum level of extraversion among the participants are unlikely to be funded, providing some support for the hypothesis.

A free, open-access preprint of the article is available on arXiv while the official version of the article is published in Political Studies, 63(2), June 2015.

Social information and voting

A key feature of many online platforms is social information, which is information about what other people are doing. We recreated this form of social influence in an experiment we conducted at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. A description of the experiment and preliminary results are reported in the blog post linked below.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our experiment on the effects social information in the Gillray ‘Love Bites’ exhibition on Friday night. Here we explain the background to the experiment, and present the results.

Research shows that when we know that other people like something, it makes us more likely to like it too. This ‘social information’ about other people’s preferences plays a role in all kinds of social and political behaviour; for example, the (as it turned out, wrong) opinion polls are likely to have influenced how we voted in the general election. Now that we all spend so much of our time on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, we are bombarded continually with this kind of information about what other people like, share, follow, support or view. So understanding how this information affects how we think and what we do is especially important in the age of social media. An experiment of the kind we ran in the Gillray exhibition at the LiveFriday event at the Ashmolean museum on May 12th is a good way to work out the effect of different kinds of social information.…Read more

Read the more and see the results at: http://experiments.oii.ox.ac.uk/2015/05/18/livefriday-love-bites-results/