A design and policy proposal for improving the democratic quality of social media Marc Smith…
SMR Foundation collaborators Itai Himelboim, Marc A. Smith, Lee Rainie, Ben Shneiderman and Camila Espina have recently published the article Classifying Twitter Topic-Networks Using Social Network Analysis in Social Media + Society (January-March 2017: 1 –13).
As users interact via social media spaces, like Twitter, they form connections that emerge into complex social network structures. These connections are indicators of content sharing, and network structures reflect patterns of information flow. This article proposes a conceptual and practical model for the classification of topical Twitter networks, based on their network-level structures. As current literature focuses on the classification of users to key positions, this study utilizes the overall network structures in order to classify Twitter conversation based on their patterns of information flow. Four network-level metrics, which have established as indicators of information flow characteristics—density, modularity, centralization, and the fraction of isolated users—are utilized in a three-step classification model. This process led us to suggest six structures of information flow: divided, unified, fragmented, clustered, in and out hub-and-spoke networks. We demonstrate the value of these network structures by segmenting 60 Twitter topical social media network datasets into these six distinct patterns of collective connections, illustrating how different topics of conversations exhibit different patterns of information flow. We discuss conceptual and practical implications for each structure. [Read more…]