Saturday, September 06, 2014

Beyond the main stage: Teasing apart twitter traffic about net neutrality

For this installment of the NodeXL Gallery Glimpse, I'm teasing apart the members of the social graph around the net neutrality issue.

I began by running a search for all tweets that contained the terms "netneutrality" and "net neutrality" over the three week period from Saturday 23 Aug to Friday 5 Sep 2014, inclusive. That yields this SNApshot,

It has the typical structure of a Community Cluster, as defined in the Pew Research paper "Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters":
  1. A large block of disconnected contributors who mention the topic but do not link to one another - the big group in the band across the top
  2. A number of large hubs around a core user that everyone mentions, with loose connections between the hubs. 
Each hub is what the Pew authors call a Broadcast Network, in which many people repeat what the prominent node at the center has tweeted, leading to edges pointing in to the core from the surrounding cloud. In this case, the top vertex (by betweenness centrality) is @fightfortheftr, and people are retweeting its call to sign a petition to the FCC; and not surprisingly, the #2 vertex is @fcc, mentioned in all the retweets.

In community cluster community clusters, not all in-pointing hubs are worshipful; in some cases, they're disparaging. In this case, many edges point to @nctacable because users are criticizing an policy statement made by the trade association. Perhaps one should think of them as "attribution networks" rather than broadcast networks. The image I have is of a lot of people shouting at a person up on a pedestal - sometimes cheering, and sometimes booing.

In the usual fashion, NodeXL lists the key word pairs for the entire graph which capture the gist of the conversation:
Top Word Pairs in Tweet in Entire Graph:
This is pretty much the same as the word pairs for the group of disconnected contributors, which isn't surprising since they make up about a third of the vertices in the graph (34.5%, or 2,645 of 7,659 vertices).

But what about the connected components?

To explore this, I removed the disconnected contributors, to yield the SNApshot

It shows the 5,014 users (= 7,659 - 2,645) that mentioned other twitter users in their tweets. The overall message hasn't changed much. The "Sept. 10th is the Internet Slowdown" campaign, but the ever-motivating Koch brothers have crept into the Top 10:
Top Word Pairs in Tweet in Entire Graph:
The users that are the centers of attention of the hubs are identical:
Top 10 Vertices, Ranked by Betweenness Centrality:
But is there actually any interaction around this topic, or are people just sharing loves and hates with their friends, and not actually hearing back from them?

To find out, I kept only the vertices that shared reciprocating edges, that is, keep @Alice and @Bob only if @Alice mentioned @Bob in a tweet, and @Bob mentioned @Alice. One wouldn't expect much to remain, since the Reciprocated Edge Ratio listed for the original SNApshot only 2.8%.

Indeed we end up with a rather small graph,, with only 138 vertices:

This is a very different cast of characters: not the Big Names that people are admiring (or hating) from afar, but the people who are talking to each other about net neutrality. Here, then, is one way to find the true grassroots activists:
Top 10 Vertices, Ranked by Betweenness Centrality:
debttrut ("Our system, in the last 40 years, has institutionalized a MEME that it's OK TO BE RAVENOUSLY GREEDY ...")
ajain31 ("A Liberal Dem #Obama follower & Twitteraholic ...")
ammori ("lots of stuff. net neutrality stuff recently")
acequiero1 ("Acequia Farmer and Professor. ... Environmental Justice Activist")
latinorebels ("Humor, commentary & analysis of US Latin@ world")
futuretensenow ("overs emerging technologies and their implications for society and polic")
culturejedi ("writer, communications organizer, and director at the center for media justice")
insidesourcesdc ("News. Elevated. Raising the debate to a higher level.")
fcampredbbelljr ("Executive Director of the Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology")
avilarenata ("")
The Top 10 seem to be left-wing activists (surprise!), with one exception: @fredbcampbelljr. However, a few well-known right wingers also appear, e.g. @bskorup and @larrydownes in G10. The Big Fish in the fight, @fightfortheftr, does reciprocate, but conversed with @popresistance.

Drawing big conclusions about such a small network is not wise, however. I'd want to look at more than three weeks of traffic before I was confident about the nature and influence of the grassroots leaders I've identified here. Still, with that caveat: This "only reciprocating" graph helps one delve into texture of a topic, away from the glare and hype of the main stages.

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