Tag Archives: Twitter

It’s All in How You Use It

By Jennifer Earl

When Internet use was beginning to grow in the 1990s, a now decades-old debate started over whether the Internet would bring vast improvements to society, social relations, and individuals or lead to greater inequality, more anomie, and a much thinner civic core. As time wore on, many scholars studying information communication technologies (ICTs) and society were influenced by earlier work in science and technology studies (STS), which suggested that technologies themselves had no direct impact on society, but rather that their impact depended on how the technologies were used (and misused). And, after watching conflicting findings on the impacts of Internet usage roll in for about a decade, the majority of researchers in this area began to support a much milder conclusion: Internet usage would produce some social benefits and likely some social difficulties and the mix and appearance of those would depend on its usage. Continue reading


Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Data

Big Data and Social Movement Research

By Fabio Rojas

“Big data” sounds fun and exciting but it has also been heavily criticized. But now, it’s time to step back and treat “big data” as we would treat any other form of data. We should identify its strengths and weaknesses and ask how it can help us with our own specific research goals. So let’s start with an obvious, but under-appreciated, point about empirical research: there is no such thing as perfection in data. Every method for generating and collecting data has strengths and weaknesses. Thus, we should be interested in data collection methods where the positive points outweigh the negative points. For example, experimental data has a great virtue – those who receive the treatment are randomly selected, thus eliminating bias. Experimental data also has a serious drawback. Experimental settings may not reflect “real world” processes and are often not generalizable. This is a serious problem for biomedical research, for example. A drug tested in a highly controlled environment may work differently than in the actual setting of a hospital. Yet, we value experiments because they do one thing exceptionally well – they eliminate selection bias and address the issue of confounding variables. Continue reading


Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Data

5 reasons why online Big Data is Bad Data for researching social movements

By Jen Schradie


I know, I know, it’s digital blasphemy to say that using Internet data is a terrible way to study social movements. What about all of those Twitter and Facebook revolutions of the Arab Spring? And Occupy Wall Street? #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter spread like wildfire, for God’s sake.

You may think that I’m a luddite who doesn’t see the sheer statistical splendor and speed of social network diagrams or automated text analyses made from Tweets.  Or, perhaps you’re thinking that old-school scholars just don’t get it: digital activism is the future, so we need to disrupt, innovate and flatten those hierarchical Marxist social movement sociologists.

But before you reach through your screen and strangle me with your iPhone charger cord, consider these ways in which online data, whether social media or otherwise, might not be as representative or generalizable as they are fast and efficient. Continue reading


Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Data

From French Resistance to hashtag activism: How our obsession with the extraordinary masks the power of the ordinary

I’ve become obsessed with “Un village français.” No, it’s not an idyllic town in Provence. It’s a French television series set during World War II. The show follows the residents of one French town as they navigate the German occupation.

"Un village français" is a French television series set during the German occupation during World War II.

“Un village français” is a French television series set during the German occupation during World War II.

I tell myself that I am already into the 6th season (thank you, Netflix) because it helps me learn the language. I have just started a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, based at the Toulouse School of Economics. And I do need to brush up on my French. But admittedly, I am fascinated with the drama and romance of the TV series.

But I have also realized that the show mirrors the way I approach my research on social movements, social media, and social class. It focuses not on the big heroes, or iconic giants of history, but on the average people. And rather than dwelling on extraordinary events like big battles involving thousands of troops, the shows unfolds slowly as we watch these regular people struggle with everyday circumstances.

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Filed under Emerging Stars in Social Movement Research, Essay Dialogues

Fuat Avni: The Reason Erdogan Bans Twitter?

Having more than 12 million users, Turkey was one of the leading countries in the world connected to Twitter. No more.


Perceiving Twitter as a major platform for protesting his regime, Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the blocking of the site. “Twitter schmitter,” said Erdogan, “we will wipe out all of these. The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all.”

Twitter users in Turkey have divergent styles. Some will generally share news stories, others prefer direct interactive engagement with others. Few, however, use Twitter as a venue to publish their ideas. Instead of interacting, they primarily focus on sharing their story in a series of tweets, often numbered consecutively. Fuat Avni is one of them. Using a pseudonym, Fuat Avni stands out with an important feature that makes him unique: targeting Erdogan by revealing his everyday interactions. Continue reading

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What can twitter tell us about feminism?

In August 2013 the feminist twitter-sphere lit up with thousands of tweets bearing the hashtag “solidarity is for white women.” NPR article “Twitter Sparks A Serious Discussion About Race and Feminism” outlines the emergence and trajectory of the hashtag.

According to the article, after #solidarityisforwhitewomen was first tweeted by blogger Mikki Kendall on August 12, it rapidly gained traction.  During the twitter debates, feminists of color described their absence from “big name feminism” and their lack of inclusion in online feminist dialogue. White women chimed in. Some defended themselves, others acknowledged the importance of the conversation and encouraged their white feminist peers to just listen.

As writer/blogger Roxane Gay wrote: “The #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag reveals fractures in American feminism. Those fractures run so…deep it’s hard to believe they can be healed.” Continue reading


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Be Careful What You Tweet

Guy Adams, a reporter, had his Twitter account suspended after he tweeted complaints about a Twitter business partner, NBC. Twitter “proactively” brought the tweet to NBC’s attention and encouraged NBC to file a complaint. When NBC did complain, Twitter kicked Adams off. The basis of the complaint was that Adams had released “personal information” about someone else, which is against Twitter policy. Interestingly, in this case, that “personal information” was the public business email address of the NBC executive that Adams saw as responsible for poor decisions about Olympic coverage.

The story of Adams’ ouster hit the news, and Twitter, which has been much more likely to protect free speech than many other social media sites, Continue reading

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Pay Facebook to get activists to like you, to really really like you

Why do you click “like” on an organization’s page on Facebook? Possibly to show support for the group. But if you’re like me, I also want to get occasional updates in my newsfeed about current activities and actions of the group or cause. However, to boost the chance that subscribers see more of a group’s posts, Facebook is now charging them money for “promoted posts.” This policy change points to the continuing challenge to the utopic idea that costs have been virtually eliminated for virtual activists.

Digital activism is not “flat,” or without hierarchies, when it is dependent on money and stratification, a fancy sociology word for social class divisions based on power relations. As more social movements and organizations become dependent on these types of social media platforms, they are also more and more tethered to corporations with the end goal being profit. Ultimately, rather than leveling the playing field of activism, people with more money will have an advantage of getting their message out – which crowds out the grassroots viral ideal of digital democracy. It doesn’t make it impossible for un-promoted posts to be seen, but your Facebook feed could be jammed with people paying to be in it. Continue reading


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Twitter’s New Policy: Censoring Social Activism?

Late last week, the social networking service Twitter announced changes to its policy: It will now “reactively withhold content from users in a specific country” when legally requested to do so. In a follow-up to the original blog post, Twitter argues that this is a step toward greater freedom of expression. Previously, censored content was removed on a global scale; now it will only be removed at the country level:

In short, we believe the new, more granular approach to withheld content is a good thing for freedom of expression, transparency, accountability— and for our users. Besides allowing us to keep Tweets available in more places, it also allows users to see whether we are living up to our freedom of expression ideal. Continue reading


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