The topology of a discussion: The #Occupy case

Floriana Gargiulo, Jacopo Bindi, Andrea Apolloni

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Introduction: We analyse a large sample of the Twitter activity that developed around the social movement 'Occupy Wall Street', to study the complex interactions between the human communication activity and the semantic content of a debate. Methods: We use a network approach based on the analysis of the bipartite graph @Users-#Hash-tags and of its projections: the 'semantic network', whose nodes are hashtags, and the 'users interest network', whose nodes are users. In the first instance, we find out that discussion topics (#hashtags) presenta high structural heterogeneity, with a relevant role played by the semantic hubs that are responsible to guarantee the continuity of the debate. In the users' case, the self-organisation process of users' activity, leads to the emergence of two classes of communicators: the 'professionals' and the 'amateurs'. Results: Both the networks present a strong community structure, based on the differentiation of the semantic topics, and a high level of structural robustness when certain sets of topics are censored and/or accounts are removed. Conclusions: By analysing the characteristics of the dynamical networks we can distinguish three phases of the discussion about the movement. Each phase corresponds to a specific moment of the movement: from declaration of intent, organisation and development and the final phase of political reactions. Each phase is characterised by the presence of prototypical #hash-tags in the discussion.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0137191
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sep 2015


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