professor new media
When I was working on the importance of Twitter in the inception of the revolts in Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and Yemen I found that retweets were unusually numerous. (Boynton, 3/9/2011) Sysomos found that only about six percent of all Twitter messages are retweets. In these countries the percentage of messages that were retweets was in the 60% range. That is an extraordinary difference. I argued that the form of the messages worked to constitute a we who could stand against the armed forces of the tyrant. The form of the message invokes a relationship between the person whose message I believe is important enough to be passing along and with the persons who are following me and therefore receive the message. The content may be about facing down the tyrant. The message may be about organizing the protest. The message may be commemorating a fallen hero. Whatever the message it is we who are participating in the communication. It is we who will act. I wanted to see if the use of retweeting was limited to these revolts so I looked at Wisconsin where another revolt was taking place against a governor and majority in the state legislature that were understood to be acting as tyrants. The use of retweet in those messages was 70%. As a shorthand it seemed 'we move' was an appropriate designation. Retweet is a we move.
While following the #occupy movement I found the same. Retweets dominated Twitter messages. But there is variation. Some messages are retweeted only a few times and others are retweeted many times. I looked at how that could happen in "Retweeting in big numbers" (Boynton, 11/04/2011)
The streams of Twitter messages provided by R-SHIEF lets me examine the extent to which retweets are being used broadly in the #occupy movement. The number of tweets per stream varies greatly. The smallest was 9 for OccupyAiIDS. The Largest was OWS with 5.28 million messages. Figures are not much help with such extreme ranges so to summarize I divided them into six approximately equal groups to show how long the tail is.
At the bottom of the distribution there is high variety. Of the 805 tweets containing the hashtag occupyTheSubway 97.8 are retweets. And occupySanta was a hashtag with 97 messages and only 15.4% are retweets. Since most of the messages are in segments 4 through 6, 12,374,154 compared to 51,403, those are the messages I will examine.
The figure shows the percentage of Twitter messages that were retweets for the streams.
The range is from 85% to the outlier 18%. Only two streams fall below 50% of the messages in the stream. The average for the collected streams is 67.2%. The outlier is occupyTheInternet with 6155 posted messages only 18.5% of them are retweets.
A we is called for in facing tyrants. One cannot do it alone. The #occupy movement is about changing the culture that has been built to facilitate the 1% dominating political and economic life. They use their wealth to dominate as other tyrants use guns to dominate. Retweeting for #occupy is constituting a we to take on the culture and the tyranny of the 1%.
I am reporting to the Hackathon rather late on the last day. I spent most of Saturday and most of Sunday unzipping 120 files and doing a couple of simple computations. I am delighted to have the streams. It is a wonderful collection, and I will use it along with the streams that I have collected -- with acknowledgement to R-SHIEF. And I am looking forward to working with the "raw" files as soon as I get them unzipped. Now I will have to see if I can get this posted.
Boynton, G. R. ( November 4, 2011) Retweeting in big numbers
Boynton, G.R. (March 14, 2011) RT @bobboynton new media and the revolting middle east
Sysmos (2010) Replies and Retweets on Twitter
© G. R. Boynton, December 11, 2011
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