This Grant for Rapid Response Research (RAPID) project will explore the efficient and rapid consensus building systems among citizens within and across countries, and examine how such a large scale of self-organized citizens can be mobilized in a short period of time with common goals. In the Arabic countries, an intensive campaign of civil resistance has spread rapidly from country to country. Starting in December 2010 in Tunisia, it spread to Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Iran, Bahrain, Libya and Morocco. Both mainstream media and social media agree that it is the largest citizen protest in human history, and debate that social media has caused a revolution in Arabic countries. In this proposed research, we will study two issues. First, we propose to investigate information diffusion speed through social media. Second, we propose to explore the emergence and organization of mechanisms of its diffusion and collective intelligence within social media space. To measure the information diffusion speed, we will apply the curve fitting regression method. What we observe today is not just the spread of civil protests from one city to another, but also from one country to another, on a day to day basis. We believe that this type of large scale protest cannot be enabled without the extremely mobile and fast information delivery and sharing systems that are available on a global scale. To assess the patterns of emergence, organization, and spread of social reporting we will run social network analyses. This will be done at two different levels: one within country, and the second across countries. Data must be collected rapidly because it is ephemeral.

Examining cross-border information spread will enable us to better understand how social media can de-construct the territory based traditional concept of national borders. This research will contribute to knowledge by throwing new light on the way of harnessing citizens' potential at the collective level to bring about social changes. Specifically, this research will attempt to understand the co-evolution pattern of information diffusion speed, self-organization of protesters, and communication technology and will empirically show the potential of collective social media.

Project Report

– Final Report H. R. Rao (PI) Onook Oh (Senior Personnel) Intellectual Merit The grant allowed us to collect data about the Egypt revolution and carry out extensive analyses on it. The following three studies have resulted from it. 1. "Improvisation, verification, and solidification (IVS): An exploration of instantaneous protest communication in Twitter during the Egyptian Revolution 2011" This study explores Twitter as a collective social awareness system during a social crisis. We trace how Twitter communications develop spontaneously over time during the political crisis of the 2011 Egypt revolution, particularly during and around the January 25th demonstration. Applying the "milling" and "keynoting" concepts of Emergent Norm Theory to the social media context, we suggest a sequential crisis communication framework of IVS (Improvisation, Verification, and Solidification). Content and communication network analyses confirm the personalization of instantaneous protest communication during the demonstration in Twitter. Also, an ad-hoc analysis of the IVS framework reveals that, while ‘Improvised’ communication was salient among tweets that originated from Egypt, communications purposed for the ‘Verification’ of situational information were especially noticeable in tweets that originated from Non-Arab nations. In contrast, communications intended for the ‘Solidification’ of collective identity were evenly distributed across different regions of the globe. This paper is authored by Kwon, K. H., Oh, O., & Rao, H. R. 2. "Role of Social Media in Social Changes: An Analysis of Collective Sense-Making during the 2011 Egypt Revolution" This study explores the role of social media in social changes by analyzing Twitter data on the 2011 Egypt revolution. We give special attention to the notion of collective sense-making which is considered as a critical aspect to anticipate the emergence of collective action for revolutionary social changes. We argue that the collective sense-making process through Twitter can best be explicated when we acknowledge that humans and technologies are inseparably intertwined entities. We carry out time series and content analyses of hashtags - these reveal that, while many hashtags were used as symbolic anchors to funnel online users’ attention to the general issues on the Egypt revolution, other hashtags are used as a part of tweet sentences to deliver changing situational information surrounding the Egyptian president Mubarak. We suggest that collective sense-making through social media is a sign-ification in that it is a process of inseparable interplay of signs, Twitter grammar, humans and social technologies. This paper is authored by Oh, O., Eom, C., and Rao, H.R. 3. "From Print and Reprint to Tweet and Retweet: An Exploration of Social Media, Information Diffusion, and Radical Social Changes". We explore the role of Twitter during the 2011 Egypt Revolution. We first review how historians analyze the role of print technology during the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century. Through this review, we argue that (1) revolutionary ideas (like Martin Luther’s) cannot be revolutionary unless it is distributed, shared and supported by many others, and (2) efficient communication technologies are essential to distribute and share revolutionary ideas with a large number of others. We find that the historians’ approach bears similarity with that of sociomateriality, and offers a useful angle for our study. Following the historians’ approach and using the sociomateriality perspective, we analyze retweet communication patterns to determine (1) how influential figures emerge among a multitude of online individuals, and (2) what are the implications of the emergence of multiple connections. The results of our data analysis show that the collective retweeting practices during the Egypt Revolution can be understood as collective and collaborative information processing to share reliable situational information as rapidly as possible so that they can enhance the collective level of situational awareness and expand the boundary of shared understanding in an unfolding crisis situation. This provides important insights to anticipate imminent social changes. This paper is authored by Oh, O., Tahmasbi, N., Rao, H.R., and Vreede, G.J. A couple of other research projects are still under way and are too preliminary to report. Broader Impact The grant funded the research (in part) of one PhD student and a couple of undergraduate students were also involved in the research. The grant enabled data collection of time sensitive data. Three papers have been submitted to various journals and are under various stages of review. Dissemination has occurred through presentations at various conferences including International Conference on Information Systems, Orlando, Florida 2012 and International Communication Association, 2013, London, UK.

Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-04-01
Budget End
2013-03-31
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$30,836
Indirect Cost
Name
Suny at Buffalo
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Buffalo
State
NY
Country
United States
Zip Code
14260