PEW RESEARCH CENTER www.pewresearch.org
Our approach combines analysis of the size and structure of the network and its sub-groups with analysis of the words, hashtags and URLs people use. Each person who contributes to a Twitter conversation is located in a specific position in the web of relationships among all participants in the conversation. Some people occupy rare positions in the network that suggest that they have special importance and power in the conversation. Social network maps of Twitter crowds and other collections of social media can be created with innovative data analysis tools that provide new insight into the landscape of social media. These maps highlight the people and topics that drive conversations and group behavior
insights that add to what can be learned from surveys or focus groups or even sentiment analysis of tweets. Maps of previously hidden landscapes of social media highlight the key people, groups, and topics being discussed.
Conversational archetypes on Twitter
The Polarized Crowd network structure is only one of several different ways that crowds and conversations can take shape on Twitter. There are at least six distinctive structures of social media crowds which form depending on the subject being discussed, the information sources being cited, the social networks of the people talking about the subject, and the leaders of the conversation. Each has a different social structure and shape: divided, unified, fragmented, clustered, and inward and outward hub and spokes. After an analysis of many thousands of Twitter maps, we found six different kinds of network crowds.
Polarized discussions feature
two big and dense groups that have little connection between them
. The topics being discussed are often highly divisive and heated political subjects. In fact, there is usually little conversation between these groups despite the fact that they are focused on the same topic. Polarized Crowds on Twitter are not arguing. They are ignoring one another while pointing to different web resources and using different hashtags.
Why this matters:
It shows that partisan Twitter users rely on different information sources. While liberals link to many mainstream news sources, conservatives link to a different set of websites.
These discussions are characterized by
highly interconnected people
with few isolated participants. Many conferences, professional topics, hobby groups, and other subjects that attract communities take this Tight Crowd form.
Why this matters:
These structures show how networked learning communities function and how sharing and mutual support can be facilitated by social media.