Occupy vs Tea Party: What Their Twitter Networks Reveal

Occupy_larger-thumb-600x429-147397Peter Aldhous in New Scientist:

According to some political commentators, Occupy Wall Street is the left's answer to the Tea Party – driven by a similar anger towards elites. But the social networks of people tweeting about the two movements suggest that they have rather different dynamics.

Those tweeting about the Tea Party emerge as a tight-knit “in crowd”, following one another's tweets. By contrast, the network of people tweeting about Occupy consists of a looser series of clusters, in which the output of a few key people is being vigorously retweeted.

The Occupy network also has many casual unconnected tweeters, shown to the bottom right of the diagram below. Whether Occupy takes off as a coherent movement may depend on its success in bringing these potential recruits into the fold.

This view of how the two movements are impacting the Twitterverse comes from Marc Smith of the Social Media Research Foundation in Belmont, California. “These are very differently organised groups,” he says. “Occupy is much more diffuse and diverse.”

Smith has analysed tweets containing “occupywallstreet” or “teaparty”, drawing connections between the Twitter users involved if one follows one other (shown in grey), or if they retweeted, replied or mentioned one another (shown in blue).

The Occupy network above visualises almost 1400 tweets posted in less than 30 minutes on 15 November. The size of each user depends on their number of followers. The clusters, with users shown in different colours, are defined by an algorithm that looks for “islands” after subtracting the influence of people who “bridge” different parts of the network.

Occupy's clusters look like a series of firework explosions, as supporters retweet the posts of a few key individuals and organisations.