Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action

Princeton University Press
Free sample

As people spend increasing proportions of their daily lives using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, they are being invited to support myriad political causes by sharing, liking, endorsing, or downloading. Chain reactions caused by these tiny acts of participation form a growing part of collective action today, from neighborhood campaigns to global political movements. Political Turbulence reveals that, in fact, most attempts at collective action online do not succeed, but some give rise to huge mobilizations—even revolutions.

Drawing on large-scale data generated from the Internet and real-world events, this book shows how mobilizations that succeed are unpredictable, unstable, and often unsustainable. To better understand this unruly new force in the political world, the authors use experiments that test how social media influence citizens deciding whether or not to participate. They show how different personality types react to social influences and identify which types of people are willing to participate at an early stage in a mobilization when there are few supporters or signals of viability. The authors argue that pluralism is the model of democracy that is emerging in the social media age—not the ordered, organized vision of early pluralists, but a chaotic, turbulent form of politics.


This book demonstrates how data science and experimentation with social data can provide a methodological toolkit for understanding, shaping, and perhaps even predicting the outcomes of this democratic turbulence.

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About the author

Helen Margetts is professor of society and the Internet and director of the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. Peter John is professor of political science and public policy at University College London. Scott Hale is a data scientist at the Oxford Internet Institute. Taha Yasseri is a research fellow in computational social science at the Oxford Internet Institute.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Nov 24, 2015
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9781400873555
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / General
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Democracy
Political Science / Political Process / Political Advocacy
Social Science / Media Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Field experiments -- randomized controlled trials -- have become ever more popular in political science, as well as in other disciplines, such as economics, social policy and development. Policy-makers have also increasingly used randomization to evaluate public policies, designing trials of tax reminders, welfare policies and international aid programs to name just a few of the interventions tested in this way. Field experiments have become successful because they assess causal claims in ways that other methods of evaluation find hard to emulate.

Social scientists and evaluators have rediscovered how to design and analyze field experiments, but they have paid much less attention to the challenges of organizing and managing them. Field experiments pose unique challenges and opportunities for the researcher and evaluator which come from working in the field. The research experience can be challenging and at times hard to predict. This book aims to help researchers and evaluators plan and manage their field experiments so they can avoid common pitfalls. It is also intended to open up discussion about the context and backdrop to trials so that these practical aspects of field experiments are better understood.

The book sets out ten steps researchers can use to plan their field experiments, then nine threats to watch out for when they implement them. There are cases studies of voting and political participation, elites, welfare and employment, nudging citizens, and developing countries.
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