Studying the viral growth of a connective action network using information event signatures


  • Jeff Hemsley School of Information Studies, Syracuse University



social media, occupy, diffusion, social networks


The Arab spring and Occupy Wall Street movements demonstrated that networks of individuals who share interests or grievances could quickly form on social media. There is a reciprocal relationship between the growth of these networks and the information that flows through them. This study examines this relationship by using viral information event signatures, which show the changing rate of sharing of a specific message over a period of time. The Occupy movement and the digital interactions of its participants provides a context and rich corpus of data from which to study the relationship between the signatures of information flows and the growth the Occupy network. Using exploratory data analysis and multivariate regression to analyze Occupy related tweets drawn from a corpus of over 64 million tweets, this study first provides a parameterized signature model and then uses regression to show that a relationship exists between the shape of the signature and the rate at which key actors gain followers. This work also finds a quadratic decline, over the life cycle of the movement, in the rate at which the actors gain followers. The contributions of this work include the parameterized signature model, a demonstration of its usefulness, and a new perspective on the growth of the Occupy movement.

Author Biography

Jeff Hemsley, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University

Jeff Hemsley is an Assistant Professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. His research is about understanding information diffusion and user interaction in social media. He draws on theories from sociology and communication to frame his thinking and research questions, but uses computational methods to collect, wrangle, visualize and analyze large, heterogeneous datasets. He is co-author of the book Going Viral (Polity Press, 2013 and winner of ASIS&T Best Science Books of 2014 Information award and selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2014), which explains what virality is, how it works technologically and socially, and draws out the implications of this process for social change.




How to Cite

Hemsley, J. (2016). Studying the viral growth of a connective action network using information event signatures. First Monday, 21(8).