The purpose of this paper is to explore the formation, maintenance and disintegration of a fringe Twitter community in order to understand if offline community structure applies to online communities.
The research adopted Big Data methodological approaches in tracking user-generated contents over a series of months and mapped online Twitter interactions as a multimodal, longitudinal “social information landscape”. Centrality measures were employed to gauge the importance of particular user nodes within the complete network and time-series analysis were used to track ego centralities in order to see if this particular online communities were maintained by specific egos.
The case study shows that communities with distinct boundaries and memberships can form and exist within Twitter’s limited user content and sequential policies, which unlike other social media services, do not support formal groups, demonstrating the resilience of desperate online users when their ideology overcome social media limitations. Analysis in this paper using social networks approaches also reveals that communities are formed and maintained from the bottom-up.
The research data is based on a particular data set which occurred within a specific time and space. However, due to the rapid, polarising group behaviour, growth, disintegration and decline of the online community, the data set presents a “laboratory” case from which many other online community can be compared with. It is highly possible that the case can be generalised to a broader range of communities and from which online community theories can be proved/disproved.
The paper showed that particular group of egos with high activities, if removed, could entirely break the cohesiveness of the community. Conversely, strengthening such egos will reinforce the community strength. The questions mooted within the paper and the methodology outlined can potentially be applied in a variety of social science research areas. The contribution to the understanding of a complex social and political arena, as outlined in the paper, is a key example of such an application within an increasingly strategic research area – and this will surely be applied and developed further by the computer science and security community.
The majority of researches that cover these domains have not focused on communities that are multimodal and longitudinal. This is mainly due to the challenges associated with the collection and analysis of continuous data sets that have high volume and velocity. Such data sets are therefore unexploited with regards to cyber-community research.
The author acknowledges the financial support from the International Doctoral Innovation Centre, Ningbo Education Bureau, Ningbo Science and Technology Bureau, China’s MoST and The University of Nottingham. The project is partially supported by NBSTB Project 2012B10055.
Ch'ng, E. (2015), "The bottom-up formation and maintenance of a Twitter community: Analysis of the #FreeJahar Twitter community", Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 115 No. 4, pp. 612-624. https://doi.org/10.1108/IMDS-11-2014-0332
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