Cover: The Role of Communication and Network Technologies in the Dynamics of Social Movements

The Role of Communication and Network Technologies in the Dynamics of Social Movements

Published Jun 10, 2022

by Krystyna Marcinek, Rushil Zutshi, Omair Khan, Justin Grana, Marek N. Posard, Todd C. Helmus, Aaron B. Frank

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We investigate the multi-faceted role of information technologies in the spread and dynamics of social movements. Specifically, we ask two main questions: 1) how do communication and network technologies impact the number and connectivity of movement participants, and 2) how does more efficient and more accurate surveillance technology impact an authority's ability to learn about the movement. Importantly, our simulation model includes both homophily and social influence, two established tenants of social movements and social relationships more broadly. Our results show that communication technology that increases spontaneous interaction helps to ignite social movements, while improvements in networking technology are more effective at accelerating the growth of social movements in their intermediate stages. However, when agents are allowed to join the movement, outreach is more effective at accelerating the growth of the number of participants. Our results also show that authority can gain highly accurate beliefs simply by observing network links (instead of individual actors) in all but the smallest social movements.

The research described in this report was conducted by the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center within the RAND National Security Research Division.

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