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Activist networks online:
Methodological experiments
Dr. Iina Hellsten
Associate Professor
VU University Amsterdam/ The Network Institute
Department of Organization Sciences
E-mail: [email protected]
KNAW eHumanities group, 4 October 2012
Online activism
http://makeitfair.org/en/take-action
Activist groups, campaigns, documents:
Methodological challenges
Very rich data on activist groups online
-- but how to study online activism?
Activist Networks Online
2 PARTS:
1) Virtual presence (2010-2011) (de Bakker & Hellsten)
* virtual activism? WHO is present?
* semantic content? WHAT is communicated?
2) Mapping online activist networks
(MONA) (2012-)
(De Bakker, Hellsten, Aroyo & Ploeger, Armenta)
* tactics and events? HOW are activist
networks connected? WHY specific tactics?
Part 1: Virtual presence
Online visibility: website, links to other websites, use of
social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs)
Activist networks and campaigns high visibility on the Web
Virtual campaigns?
Virtual activism?
Virtual presence?
internet image by Attila Toro from Fotolia.com
Internet and activist networks
Think locally, act globally (Castells, 2001)
* circulation of material
* open forums for activism
* linking to other networks and campaigns
* raising awareness of the activists’ issues
* mobilization
Research questions
How are activist groups organized online?
How are activist networks connected to each other?
What do activist networks communicate online?
What kind of shared tactics activist networks use
online?
Methdological challenge:
How to map online activist networks?
SOMO network
* Complex network, “spider in the web”
* Coordinates several (changing campaigns)
SOMO network
* High Web visibility
* Coordinating other organizations, networks and
campaigns, incl. 8 activist networks
“SOMO is an independent, non-profit research and network
organisation working on social, ecological and economic
issues related to sustainable development. Since 1973, the
organisation investigates multinational corporations and the
consequences of their activities for people and the
environment around the world.” (www.somo.nl)
Mixed methods
Hyperlink analysis
* how do organizations, networks and campaigns link to each other?
* IssueCrawler (www.issuecrawler.net)
Semantic co-word maps
* how do organizations, networks and campaigns frame issues?
*automated co-word mapping (www.leydesdorff.net)
Simple event model (SEM)
* how do organizations, networks share events?
Combination of methods allows us to track campaign events
and link these to specific activist groups and firms
over time and across the networks
Three steps, three questions
1. How are organizations, networks and
campaigns linked to each other on the
Web?
2. How is the structure of organization
networks and semantics within the
Web site linked to each other?
3. How do the semantics of a network
SOMO) and a campaign (e.g. makeITfair)
differ from each other?
(e.g.
Hyperlinks
Hyperlink structure of linking organizations,
networks and campaigns
Issue Crawler www.issuecrawler.net
Focus on SOMO as a coordinating network
of activist groups and makeITfair as one
campaign December 2010, May 2011 and
December 2011
Hyperlinks December 2010
Facebook
taxjustice
makeITfair
SOMO
goodElectronics
Figure 1: Hyperlink network of 52 organiztions around the website of SOMO, 20 December, 2010, [Issue
Crawler results, SOMO highlighted, crawl depth 3]
Hyperlinks May 2011
SOMO
makeITfair
OECD
watch
Facebook
goodElectronics
SOMO hyperlink network of 52 organizations, 26 May, 2011, [Issue Crawler results, SOMO highlighted,
crawl depth 3]
Hyperlinks and semantics
Structure and content of the networks
SOMO website news compared to hyperlinks
Focus on January-May 2011
Semantic networks
Tools to map co-occurring words in text
documents (e.g. news on the web sites of the activist
networks)
Steps:
1. Download text documents
2. Create a word frequency list and a stop word list
3. Run TI.exe to create asymmetrical worddocument matrices
4. Visualise results with Pajek
(source: Loet Leydesdorff, see www.leydesdorff.net)
SOMO news,
sustainable
January-May 2011
labour
Apple, report
electronics
Civil society advocacy
market
Chinese,
factories,
pressing,
improvement
OECD,
Watch
ethical
countrie
s
African, uranium
mining
SOMO website news in January to May 2011 (22 documents,123 unique title words occurring twice or more often, cosine>0>0.882)
Semantics of SOMO vs. makeITfair
Semantics between network and
campaign (different tactics, different styles?)
SOMO (network)
makeITfair (campaign)
Focus on website news 2008-2010
SOMO news 2009
Call fair
mobile
phones
electronic
new
Computer
industry labour
rights
WTO financial
crisis
European
makeITfair
EU trade, developing countries
SOMO website news in 2009 (47 documents, 39 unique title words used twice or more often, cosine >0>0.481, separate
components)
SOMO news 2010
OECD
guidelines
ITfair
sustainable
sector
Global
business
rules
Foxconn
suicides
new
EU financial
reform,
developing
countries
SOMO
SOMO website news in 2010 (48 documents, 39 unique title words occurring twice or more often, cosine>0> 0,430,
separate components)
makeITfair 2009
Shenzhen,
mobile phone
industry
IT
Nokia
free
electronic
South African
prior informed
consent
makeITfair website news, 2009 (19 news documents, 79 unique title words, cosine >0>0.729
makeITfair 2010
Electronic sector global China appalling
fair
Mobile
phone
IT
campaig
n
Foxconn
suicide
Local voices must
heard
makeITfair website news, 2010, 10 news documents, 53 unique title words, separate components, cosine >0>0.845.
Results (1)
Inter-organizational network (hyperlinks)
* relatively stable (OECDWatch new comer)
* the role of social media (Facebook, Twitter,
YouTube) increasing
Hyperlinks vs semantics
* SOMO news actual topics behind the
hyperlinks (campaigns, organizations, other
networks)
Results (2)
Semantics of SOMO vs. makeITfair
*different styles (implicit frames)
SOMO: neutral, global informative style (reports,
standards, particular campaigns)
makeITfair: call for action (negative words, threats,
risks, alerts)
But how to get an idea of the tactics
used by activists in online networks?
Example of activist events & tactics
http://techland.time.com/2012/02/09/foxconn-hacked-asapple-customers-prepare-to-deliver-petitions-calling-forethical-iphone-5/
Example
How to
automate the
analysis of such
text
documents?
Part 2: MONA project
MONA (Mapping Online Networks of Activists)
KNAW Academy assistant project
Goal: event database (incl. tactics)
Computer Science
Lora Aroyo – Supervisor
Thomas Ploeger - Student
Social Sciences
Bibiana Armenta – Student
Frank de Bakker - Supervisor
Iina Hellsten - Supervisor
Computer & social sciences collaboration
Social Science:
– How activist networks try to target
organizations on issues of (corporate) social
responsibility on the Web
Computer Science:
– How existing data mining, information
retrieval, and visualization techniques can be
applied to studying activist networks
ACTEVE
(ACTivist EVEnts)
model
Determining activist networks
Selecting campaigns (that attracted media & web
attention)
Identifying different events and related tactics
(tactics list)
Tracing framing of issues
GOAL: semi-automated tracking of online
activist network events and tactics
Campaign and event models
Fig. 1. (A): Initial model: Campaign-centered. (B): Revised model: Event-centered
Source: Ploeger, T. & Armenta, B, & Aroyo, L. & de Bakker, F. & Hellsten, I. (2012) Making sense of the Arab
revolution and Occupy: Visual analytics to understand events, CEUR Workshop Proceedings 902: pp. 61-70.
Case study 1:
makeITfair campaign
Crawling makeITfair site (RapidMiner)
http://rapid-i.com/content/view/181/190/
Focussing on single events within the
text documents (bottom-up approach)
Identifying events and networks of
events
Visualizing events and tactics with
timelines and location maps
Example of activist event
Example: “Foxconn Hacked as Apple Customers Prepare to
Deliver Petitions Calling for ‘ethical ‘iPhone 5”
State:
Hacked
?
Tactics:
Hacking,
petitions
call for
Event:
petitions
Date?
deliver
Actor 1:
Apple
customers
Company:
Foxconn
Hacked?
Issue:
unethical
iPhone
Is part of
Campaign:
Ethical
iPhone
ACTEVE Model Procedure 1(2)
Statistics on co-occurring words in
full text documents
Procedure:
1) Starting from e.g. company names (within 1 event)
2) mapping the verbs that co-occur in the sentence
with a company name
3) filtering the most frequent co-occurrences
4) Proceeding to events, issues, tactics etc.
Event Model Procedure 2(2)
Current state-of-affairs
Experimenting with different aggregation levels
and stopword lists
Time stamp sometimes problematic (several past and
future oriented dates in full text)
Passive tense in verbs sometimes problematic (Foxconn
hacked… does not include who hacked Foxconn)
Case study 2
Arab spring and Occupy movement
Methodological experiment:
Outcomes for Social Sciences
Mapping and visualizing single events of
activist networks
Enabling several perspectives on one event
Mixed methods approach: How to combine
hyperlink & semantic maps mehtods to Event
Model results?
Future avenues
Integrating the three
steps, three methods
(into one straight staircase)?
Case studies
1) Arab Spring
2) Occupy protest movement
3) Climate change activism networks
Thank you!
Acknowledgements:
VU/ The Network Institute: KNAW Academy Assistant Project
More information:
Ploeger, T., Armenta, B., Aroyo, L. de Bakker, F. and Hellsten, I. (2012): “Making Sense of the Arab Revolution
and Occupy: Visual Analytics to Understand Events”, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, vol. 902, pp. 61-70 (ISSN
1613-0073) http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-902/
de Bakker, Frank & Hellsten Iina & Kok Anne (2011) “Examining Activism: Tracing networks and tactics on
CSR” notizie di POLITEIA, XXVII, 103, pp. 66-77.
Bakker, de, Frank & Hellsten, I: “Virtual Presence: On Mapping How Activist Group Networks (try to) Impact
Firms”, under review
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