Article

Brokerage Roles and Strategic Positions in Twitter Networks of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution: Twitter Networks of the Egyptian Revolution

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Abstract

en The Egyptian revolution of 2011 presents an important case study for research on digital activism and online mobilization, however, most of the research has focused on the online tools available to activists, without empirically examining their online social networks, or whether they reflect networks on the ground. This article uses social network theory of brokerage, social movements theory of coalition building, and social network analysis to examine the Egyptian revolution at two different time points, representing movement solidarity and schism. I examine the Twitter network structures of Egyptian activists, identifying those who occupied strategic positions connecting activists of different ideological backgrounds. I then test whether these online brokers correspond to brokers on the ground. I find that, similarly to offline activism, online brokers who connected different ideological groups were more prevalent during periods of movement solidarity than schism. However, online brokers did not match on‐the‐ground brokers, with the two groups playing different activism roles, and complementing rather than mirroring each other in advancing the revolutionary movement. Abstract zh 摘要 2011年埃及革命是一项重要的案例研究,用于调查数字行动主义和在线动员。然而,大多数研究聚焦于激进分子使用的在线工具,并没有从实证上检验他们的在线社交网络,或者他们是否能反映当地现场的网络情况。本文使用有关经纪业务的社会网络理论、有关联盟建立的社会运动理论,以及社会网络分析,进而检验处于两个不同时间点的埃及革命—运动团结时期和分裂时期。本文检验了埃及激进分子的推特网络结构,识别了其中占据战略位置的人士,他们(通过网络)将不同思想背景的激进分子连接在一起。本文随后检验了在线经纪人是否与现场经纪人存在联络。本文发现,和线下行动主义相似的是,那些把拥有不同思想背景的人群连接在一起的在线经纪人在运动团结时期比分裂时期更为常见。然而,在线经纪人并没有和现场经纪人取得联络,这两组经纪人扮演不同的行动主义角色,在推动革命运动时二者相辅相成,而不是仿照彼此。 Abstract es Resumen La Revolución Egipcia de 2011 es un caso de estudio importante para la investigación acerca del activismo digital y la movilización en línea, sin embargo, la mayoría de la investigación se ha enfocado en las herramientas cibernéticas disponibles para los activistas, sin examinar empíricamente sus redes sociales o si reflejan redes de la vida real. Este artículo utiliza la teoría de las redes sociales para la intermediación, la teoría de movimientos sociales de la construcción de coaliciones y el análisis de redes sociales para examinar la revolución egipcia en dos diferentes momentos, representando la solidaridad del movimiento y el cisma. Examinamos las estructuras de redes de los activistas egipcios en Twitter, identificando los que ocupan posiciones estratégicas que conectan a los activistas de diferentes fondos ideológicos. Después comprobamos si esos intermediarios en internet corresponden a los de la vida real. Encontramos que, similarmente al activismo fuera de Internet, los intermediarios en línea que conectaron a diferentes grupos ideológicos eran más prevalentes durante periodos de solidaridad con el movimiento que durante el cisma. Sin embargo, los intermediarios en línea no correspondieron a los de la vida real, ya que los dos grupos diferentes juegan dos diferentes papeles de activismo, y se complementan (mas no se reflejan) al contribuir al movimiento revolucionario.

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Using prior seminal work that places emphasis on news framing and its relevance to sociocultural context, this study describes, maps, and explains evolving patterns of communication on Twitter through the events of the 2011 Egyptian uprisings, which led to the resignation of President Mubarak. Using a multimethodological approach, we conducted a network, content, and discourse analysis of randomly sampled tweets from approximately one million tweets over a month-long time period to study broadcasting and listening practices on Twitter. The findings suggested networked framing and gatekeeping practices that became activated as prominent actors and frames were crowdsourced to prominence. Quantitative findings underscored the significant role of ordinary users who both rose to prominence and elevated others to elite status through networked gatekeeping actions. In depth, discourse analysis of prominent actors and frames highlighted the fluid, iterative processes inherent in networked framing as frames were persistently revised, rearticulated, and redispersed by both crowd and elite. The ambience and affect afforded by the platform further supported conversational practices that enabled combined processes of networked framing and gatekeeping. The findings point to new directions for hybrid and fluid journalisms that rely on subjective pluralism, cocreation, and collaborative curation.
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Although popular media narratives about the role of social media in driving the events of the 2011 “Arab Spring” are likely to overstate the impact of Facebook and Twitter on these uprisings, it is nonetheless true that protests and unrest in countries from Tunisia to Syria generated a substantial amount of social media activity. On Twitter alone, several millions of tweets containing the hashtags #libya or #egypt were generated during 2011, both by directly affected citizens of these countries and by onlookers from further afield. What remains unclear, though, is the extent to which there was any direct interaction between these two groups (especially considering potential language barriers between them). Building on hashtag data sets gathered between January and November 2011, this article compares patterns of Twitter usage during the popular revolution in Egypt and the civil war in Libya. Using custom-made tools for processing “big data,” we examine the volume of tweets sent by English-, Arabic-, and mixed-language Twitter users over time and examine the networks of interaction (variously through @replying, retweeting, or both) between these groups as they developed and shifted over the course of these uprisings. Examining @reply and retweet traffic, we identify general patterns of information flow between the English- and Arabic-speaking sides of the Twittersphere and highlight the roles played by users bridging both language spheres.
Article
For the last decade, a debate has raged over the place of social media within popular uprisings. The 2011 Egyptian revolution shed new light on this debate. However, while the use of social media by Egyptians received much focus, and activists themselves pointed towards it as the key to their success, social media did not constitute the revolution itself, nor did it instigate it. Focusing solely on social media diminishes the personal risks that Egyptians took when heading into the streets to face rubber bullets and tear gas, as well as more lethal weapons. Social media was neither the cause nor the catalyst of the revolution; rather it was a tool of coordination and communication.
Article
Assesses the limitations of the structural paradigm for the investigation of the networkparticipation link, and invokes a greater role for cultural analysis in the identification of recruitment and mobilization mechanisms. This general point is illustrated with reference to three specific 'facts' regarding the origins of protest and contention, conventionally associated with the standard structuralist argument: prior social ties as a basis for movement recruitment; established social settings as the locus of movement emergence; the spread of movements along existing lines of interaction. For each of these cases, the author identifies social mechanisms, which combine structural and cultural elements. Rather than rejecting the formalization and the quest for systematic patterns, to which network concepts and methods have so much contributed in recent years, the author calls for a more dynamic integration of cultural analysis and structuralist research strategies.
Book
Attention has been paid to the emergence of “Internet activism,” but scholars and pundits disagree about whether online political activity is different in kind from more traditional forms of activism. Does the global reach and blazing speed of the Internet affect the essential character or dynamics of online political protest? This book examines key characteristics of Web activism, and investigates their impacts on organization and participation. It argues that the Web offers two key affordances relevant to activism: Sharply reduced costs for creating, organizing, and participating in protest; ... More Attention has been paid to the emergence of “Internet activism,” but scholars and pundits disagree about whether online political activity is different in kind from more traditional forms of activism. Does the global reach and blazing speed of the Internet affect the essential character or dynamics of online political protest? This book examines key characteristics of Web activism, and investigates their impacts on organization and participation. It argues that the Web offers two key affordances relevant to activism: Sharply reduced costs for creating, organizing, and participating in protest; and the decreased need for activists to be physically together in order to act together. A rally can be organized and demonstrators recruited entirely online, without the cost of printing and mailing; an activist can create an online petition in minutes and gather e-signatures from coast to coast using only his or her laptop. Drawing on evidence from samples of online petitions, boycotts, and letter-writing and e-mailing campaigns, the authors show that the more these affordances are leveraged, the more transformative the changes to organizing and participating in protest; the less these affordances are leveraged, the more superficial the changes. The rally organizers, for example, can save money on communication and coordination, but the project of staging the rally remains essentially the same. Tools that allow a single activist to create and circulate a petition entirely online, however, enable more radical changes in the process. The transformative nature of these changes demonstrates the need to revisit long-standing theoretical assumptions about social movements.
Article
The intuitive background for measures of structural centrality in social networks is reviewed and existing measures are evaluated in terms of their consistency with intuitions and their interpretability.Three distinct intuitive conceptions of centrality are uncovered and existing measures are refined to embody these conceptions. Three measures are developed for each concept, one absolute and one relative measure of the centrality of positions in a network, and one reflecting the degree of centralization of the entire network. The implications of these measures for the experimental study of small groups is examined.