TASCHA faculty to present on influential Tweeting & social movements at Change

What makes a Tweet influential, particularly during a social movement? Do influential Tweets share common messaging with other Twitter users and social media outlets? TASCHA Research Faculty member Maria Garrido, along with Alexander Halavais of Arizona State University, will present on the role of Twitter and the characteristics of influential Tweets and Twitter users during the G-20 meeting protests in 2009 at next week’s meeting of University of Washington’s Change group. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 from 12-1pm in the University of Washington’s Allen Center, room CSE 203.

Presentation Description

Does Twitter ever speak with one voice, and if not, whose voice does it speak with? 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. This research 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.

A total of 30,296 Tweets were archived over a period of eight days (September 21st – 29th,  2009) using the #g20 hashtag. This data set captured #g20 Tweet activity three days prior to the meeting, the two days when the meeting took place, and three days after it concluded. A network analysis was performed on the Retweets to identify the top 20 most Retweeted users followed by a content analysis of the Tweets that were most central in the network during this eight day period (a total of 3,000 Tweets). This set was then compared with a sample of the same size of Tweets from the whole data set to determine if there were differences in the manifest content of the Tweet that could help explain why some Tweets were more Retweeted than others. The most influential Tweets came from an interesting mix of traditional sources of journalistic authority, well-organized local grassroots organizations, and a number of individuals that seemed to arrive at the center of the protest Tweets without an obvious strategic intent.

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.


When: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 from 12-1pm

Where: University of Washington’s Allen Center, room CSE 203

About the Presenters

Alexander Halavais is Associate Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Arizona State University, where he researches the role of social media in social change. He is also the president of the Association of Internet Researchers and affiliated with the Digital Media and Learning Hub at the University of California. His work investigates the use of social media by activists, educators, and others hoping to create social change, and he leads a project on the use of learning badges and other alternative credentials. His most recent book is Search Engine Society, and his upcoming book examines new forms of participatory surveillance.

Maria Garrido is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Washington’s Information School. Her research explores how people, in communities facing social and economic challenges, use information and communication technologies to promote social change. Much of her work focuses on technology appropriation in the context of social movements and in international migration. Maria holds a Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Washington and a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Chicago.