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Talk at Harvard University

Published on
2 May 2016
Written by
Helen Margetts

Helen Margetts will speak about Political Turbulence at the Center for Research on Computation and Society at Harvard University on 2 May 2016. Full details are available on CRCS’s website.

How does the changing use of social media affect politics? In a recent book – Political Turbulence, Princeton University Press, 2016 – Helen Margetts and colleagues Peter John, Scott Hale and Taha Yasseri show how social media are now inextricably intertwined with the political behaviour of ordinary citizens, and exert an unruly influence on the political world. As people go about their daily lives, they are invited to undertake ‘tiny acts’ of political participation (liking, sharing, tweeting, retweeting, following, uploading, viewing, signing and so on) which extend the ladder of participation at the lower end. These micro-donations of time and effort can scale up to large mobilizations – most fail, but some succeed rapidly and dramatically through a series of chain reactions. When deciding whether to participate, people are exposed to web-based social influence, such as social information about the participation of others, and visibility. Different types of people (personality types for example) have different responses to these forms of social influence. The book uses large-scale data and data science approaches including experimentation to explore how such dynamics inject turbulence into the political world, with mobilization characterized by instability, unpredictability and often unsustainability. The talk will discuss the implications of these findings both for political science research and the future of the modern state. …Further details

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