Digital Technology & Social Movements

This research aims to better understand the nature of social movements that make use of digital technology as an organizing tool. This work is being conducted with Sandi Evans at the University of Southern California.

This research examines the rapid formation of online social movements as a form of networked organizational structure, and assesses the emergence of a network form of organization in Occupy Wall Street, a well-known social movement. In order to assess the emergence of structure, this work triangulates data comprised of links between Twitter users and keywords, with trends in the amount of news coverage of the movement, and with hyperlinks connecting websites connected to the movement. This study contributes to the understanding of social movements, as well as to literature on emergent organizational forms, providing significant insight into the way movements emerge as organizational forms. It is argued that technologically enabled communication process constituted the emergence of a networked organizational form that supported a geographically dispersed movement with remote but interconnected hubs of leadership. Collectively, these organizational structures exemplify a networked organizational form with distinct subunits. The findings of this research provide a better understanding of the emergence of networked organizational structures, and contribute to knowledge about the formation of social movements as networked organizations.

An early draft of a paper submitted to the 2014 meeting of the National Communication Association, highlighting this research, is available here.