TASCHA Research Assistant Professor Maria Garrido has a chapter in a new book, Cyberactivism on the Participatory Web, edited by Martha McCaughey. Maria co-authored the chapter, “Twitter as the People’s Microphone: Emergence of Authorities during Protest Tweeting,” with Alexander Halavais of Arizona State University’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The chapter covers Maria and Alex’s research on over 30,000 Tweets using the #g20 hashtag, largely protest Tweets before, during, and after the 2009 G20 Meeting in Pittsburgh.
The chapter explores whether or not Twitter speaks with collective action, a larger voice. Despite a great deal of interest that has addressed the role of social media in protests, most of this has been abstractly related to whether and to what degree such technologies enable or foment collective action. The research (and chapter) examines the Tweets during the protest of the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September 2009 to determine which users were most successful in having their messages Retweeted, whether there was some common messaging strategy or content that could be discerned in these influential Tweets, and how certain Twitter users came to gain influence during the period of the protest. Understanding the dynamics of Twitter use during protests provides a test case for how the service is used in the context of political protests, and more broadly, suggests ways in which seemingly chaotic or distributed conversations do have deep structures that can lead to certain voices being heard more clearly.