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Society and the InternetHow Networks of Information and Communication are Changing Our Lives$
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Mark Graham and William H. Dutton

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199661992

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199661992.001.0001

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Big Data and Collective Action

Big Data and Collective Action

(p.223) 14 Big Data and Collective Action
Society and the Internet

Helen Margetts

Scott A. Hale

Taha Yasseri

Oxford University Press

As more collective action takes place on Internet-based platforms, it will leave digital imprints that can be captured in ‘big data’ sets that could offer social science researchers the potential for new forms of analysis. This chapter uses a big data approach to study the dynamics of online petitions, focusing on the case of the UK Government. A large data set is harvested to analyze the rate at which petitions tend to grow in signatures, and test a specific hypothesis about whether the rate of growth has a sharper peak than would be expected from a more normal distribution. The work underscores the failure of many petitions, but also shows how rapidly successful petitions reach a tipping point. Such findings could have implications for the strategies of those initiating petitions and those designing web sites with the aim of maximising citizen engagement with policy issues.

Keywords:   big data, collective action, petitions, citizens, political participation

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