RAPID: An Investigation of Information Diffusion Speed and Collective Intelligence During the Citizen Protests of Egypt and Middle East 2011
H. Raghav Rao Principal Investigator
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This Grant for Rapid Response Research (RAPID) project will explore the efficient and rapid consensus building systems among citizens within and across countries, and examine how such a large scale of self-organized citizens can be mobilized in a short period of time with common goals. In the Arabic countries, an intensive campaign of civil resistance has spread rapidly from country to country. Starting in December 2010 in Tunisia, it spread to Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Iran, Bahrain, Libya and Morocco. Both mainstream media and social media agree that it is the largest citizen protest in human history, and debate that social media has caused a revolution in Arabic countries. In this proposed research, we will study two issues. First, we propose to investigate information diffusion speed through social media. Second, we propose to explore the emergence and organization of mechanisms of its diffusion and collective intelligence within social media space. To measure the information diffusion speed, we will apply the curve fitting regression method. What we observe today is not just the spread of civil protests from one city to another, but also from one country to another, on a day to day basis. We believe that this type of large scale protest cannot be enabled without the extremely mobile and fast information delivery and sharing systems that are available on a global scale. To assess the patterns of emergence, organization, and spread of social reporting we will run social network analyses. This will be done at two different levels: one within country, and the second across countries. Data must be collected rapidly because it is ephemeral. <br/><br/>Examining cross-border information spread will enable us to better understand how social media can de-construct the territory based traditional concept of national borders. This research will contribute to knowledge by throwing new light on the way of harnessing citizens' potential at the collective level to bring about social changes. Specifically, this research will attempt to understand the co-evolution pattern of information diffusion speed, self-organization of protesters, and communication technology and will empirically show the potential of collective social media.