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Title: Network structure, brokerage, and framing : how the internet and social media facilitate high-risk collective action
Author: Etling, Bruce
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 5747
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis investigates the role of network structure, brokerage, and framing in high-risk collective action. I use the protest movement that emerged in Russia following falsified national elections in 2011 and 2012 as an empirical case study. I draw on a unique dataset of nearly 30,000 online documents and the linking structure of over 3,500 Russian Web sites. I employ a range of computational social science methods, including Exponential Random Graph Modeling, an advanced statistical model for social networks, social network analysis, machine learning, and latent semantic analysis. I address three research questions in this thesis. The first asks if a protest network challenging a hybrid regime will have a polycentric or hierarchical structure, and if that structure changes over time. Polycentric networks are conducive to high-risk collective action and are robust to the targeted removal of key nodes, while hierarchical networks can more easily mobilize protesters and spread information. I find that the Russian protest network has a polycentric structure only at the beginning of the protests, and moves towards a less effective hierarchical structure as the movement loses popular support. The second research question seeks to understand if brokered text is actually novel, and if that text is more novel in polycentric networks than in hierarchical ones. Brokers are the individuals or nodes in a network that connect disparate groups through weak ties and close structural holes. Brokers are advantageous because they have access to and spread novel information. I find that the text among nodes in brokered relationships is indeed novel, but that information novelty decreases when networks have a hierarchical structure. The last research question asks if a protest movement in a high-risk political setting can be more successful than the government at spreading its preferred frames, and within such a movement, whether moderate or extremist framing is more prevalent. I find that the opposition is far more effective than the government in spreading its frames, even when the government organizes massive counter protests. Within the movement, moderates are more likely to have their framing adopted online than extremists, unless violence occurs at protests. The findings suggest that movements should build flatter, more diffuse networks by ensuring that brokers tie together diverse protest constituencies. The findings also provide evidence against those who claim that authoritarian governments are more effective in shaping online discourse than oppositional movements, and also suggest that movements should advance moderate framing in order to attract a wider base of support among the general population.
Supervisor: Chaisty, Paul ; Hogan, Bernie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Network Science ; Computational Social Science ; Political science ; Political communication ; Sociology ; Collective Action ; Social Networks ; Russia ; Social Media ; Framing ; Internet ; Brokerage ; Political Protests