Facebook and the 2016 US Elections

Over the last few months, I have been working with my research team on several papers that examine how the 2016 US Elections are playing out on Facebook. We have several research notes on our project published on Brookings Institution TechTank Blog.

We also have a paper accepted at the 2016 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining.

Social networking sites (SNS), such as Facebook and Twitter, are important spaces for political engagement. SNS have become common elements in political participation, campaigns, and elections. However, little is known about the dynamics between candidate posts and commentator sentiment in response to those posts on SNS. This study enriches computational political science by studying the 2016 U.S. elections and how candidates and commentators engage on Facebook. This paper also examines how online activity might be connected to offline activity and vice versa. We extracted 9,700 Facebook posts by five presidential candidates (Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich) from their official Facebook pages and 12,050,595 comments on those posts. We employed topic modeling, sentiment analysis, and trends detection using wavelet transforms to discover topics, trends, and reactions. Our findings suggest that Republican candidates are more likely to share information on controversial events that have taken place during the election cycle, while Democratic candidates focus on social policy issues. As expected, commentators on Republican candidate pages express negative sentiments toward current public policies as they seldom support decisions made by the Obama administration, while commentators on democratic candidate pages are more likely to express support for continuation or advancement of existing policies. However, the significance (strong/weak) and nature (positive/negative) of sentiments varied between candidates within political parties based on perceived credibility of the candidate’s degree of credibility on a given issue. Additionally, we explored correlation between online trends of comments/sentiment and offline events. When analyzing the trend patterns, we found that changes in online trends are driven by three factors: 1) popular post, 2) offline debates, and 3) candidates dropping out of the race.

Research Team: Saud Alashri, Srinivasa Srivatsav Kandala, Vikash Bajaj, Roopek Ravi, Anish Pradhan, and Kendra L. Smith


Dashboards, More Cybersecurity, Citizen Disengagement, and …

It has been a busy few weeks, so here are some research updates:

TechniCity – MOOC – A Vision for Smart Cities

coursera_logoWhile at Ohio State University, I recorded lectures for the TechniCity MOOC. This course is being offered by two of my colleagues, Jennifer Evans-Cowley, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Administration, City and Regional Planning Section, Ohio State University and Tom Sanchez, Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning, Virginia Tech. Check it out!

Resiliency and Community Resiliency: An Interview

Since I was busy in Lisbon and Guimarães, I could not attend the 2012 Ridenour Faculty Fellowship Conference. Given that I was supposed to be on a panel discussing forms of resilience, I was interviewed before I left for Portugal. The interview was conducted by Maggie Cowell, an assistant professor of Urban Affairs and Planning in the School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech.

New Project – Examining Public Participation in ACTion Alexandria

The Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech has entered into an agreement to partner with ACT for Alexandria to advance the design of citizen engagement platforms.I will lead a team of researchers who will work in collaboration with ACT for Alexandria personnel to examine public participation on the ACTion Alexandria platform. The team will look at how user interactions on the community platform can guide design choices that promote more robust forms of citizen engagement.

ACT for Alexandria is a community foundation founded in the the fall of 2004 by a small group of citizens who came together to decide how best to stimulate philanthropic giving to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in their community. The ACTion Alexandria project is a new citizen engagement platform which provides interactive tools that make it easier for residents to take a more active role in addressing community problems. ACTion Alexandria connects individuals to nonprofit organizations they want to support, but with a strictly local focus. Individuals have the opportunity to take action on behalf of nonprofits working to improve the community.

ACT for Alexandria is a prominent player in the non-profit space. We are excited to partner with them to study the dynamics of public participation in action. The ACTion platform gives us access to real world scenarios of how citizens use technology to engage each other.

This initiative will advance the work being done in Policy Informatics at the Metropolitan Institute. Designing better collaborative and participatory platforms remains a critical challenge in the public arena. We are not only interested in this project from a research point of view but also from a design and policy point of view. The Metropolitan Institute will be analyzing information on user behavior on the platform, designing experiments to test various strategies for increasing engagement on the platform, and contributing to the design of the overall platform.

Collaborating on this effort allows us the opportunity to make a difference in our community. The MI is based in Alexandria and we want to be part of the community. ACT for Alexandria provides an amazing array of services, from scholarships to leadership training. ACTion Alexandria is where the idea of community engagement meets the newest technological innovations.

See here for the press release from the Metropolitan Institute (Link)

Knowledge Risks in Organizational Networks – Journal of Strategic Information Systems

Peter Trkman (Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana) and I have a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Strategic Information Systems. The paper titled “Knowledge Risks in Organizational Networks: An Exploratory Framework”  uses a combination of knowledge-based and transaction cost theories to show how the dimension and type of knowledge risk differently impact the knowledge transfer, the whole network, and the risk mitigation options.

In a networked environment, it is essential for organizations to share knowledge among themselves if they want to achieve global objectives such as collaborative innovation and increased effectiveness and efficiency of operations. However, sharing knowledge is not risk-free. An organization might lose its competitive edge if it shares too much or certain key knowledge. In addition, an organization might suffer if its intellectual property is improperly handled by its business partners. While the literature has touted the value of knowledge sharing within networks, there is a conspicuous absence of studies examining the risks of sharing knowledge. To address this gap, we develop an exploratory framework that categorizes knowledge-sharing risks across multiple dimensions. Such a framework is a structured alternative to practice-based approach to knowledge risk management. It enables a prior identification of various kinds of knowledge risks that organizations are facing.

The use of such framework is not without its limitations. Thus, a complementary paper will be published in the same issue by Marco Marabelli and Sue Newell that presents an alternative approach to knowledge risk management based on a practice perspective of knowledge.

Just a couple of footnotes


Resilience of Citizen Engagement to Local Disasters Project – The Metropolitan Institute

Maggie Cowell (Assistant Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning, School of Public and International Affairs) and I have received a seed grant ($20,000) from the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment (ISCE) at Virginia Tech for our project “Resilience of Citizen Engagement to Local Disasters: Studying the Emergence and Dissolution of Community Networks.” This project will be housed at the Metropolitan Institute.

The goal of this research project is to study how citizens coalesce into responsive communities, make an impact, and then dissolve during and after a disaster. This research will bring into light locally significant disasters that do not earn national headlines and where the local community turns to their own resources to respond. Too often these local disasters and citizen responses are not studied but they are vital to deepening of our understanding of community resilience and the dynamics of citizen engagement. We will uncover the dynamics of community emergence in response to a disaster. Questions considered will include: who organizes citizens into a community, how, and why? How do they respond to the disaster? How is technology, especially social media, mobilized for community organization and relief operations? And finally, what leads to the disbanding of these communities and is there any institutional memory preserved? Consisting of a series of in-depth case studies, made up of first-person accounts and interviews together with a review of secondary sources, the research will look at three stages of a spontaneous community response: the assemblage; the action and impact; and the dissolution of the community. We will study how these emergent communities use technology creatively in the various stages of the community formation as a catalyst to overcome the lack of formal response mechanisms or response planning.

This project will provide valuable insights for citizen activists, planners, and policy makers on the functions and impacts of community response and improve our understanding of citizen engagement. Understanding the emergence, and impacts of local community response can inform the efficiency of more widespread responses. We will construct a web-based platform to share results from the research project (including video interviews with citizens, case studies, and community planning tools). In addition, the web-based platform will support networking and community building among citizens who are interested in building resilient community networks.

  • “Resilience of Citizen Engagement to Local Disasters: Studying the Emergence and Dissolution of Community Networks,” Institute for Society, Culture and Environment @ Virginia Tech, 2011, (PI) (co-PIL Margaret M. Cowell)  ($20,000)

Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework

Yuan Lin, my doctoral student, and I have a paper accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in San Antonio, Texas (August 12-16, 2011).

Individuals’ Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework

The boom of the network concept in organizational research has resulted in a growing interest in the interplay between organizational members’ knowledge transfer and their social network structure. This paper treats such interplay as a co-evolution process and lay out a theoretical framework, CO-evolution of Individuals and Networks (COIN), to facilitate its modeling. Using a simplified example, we identify the components of a co-evolution model that should be constructed based on substantive theories: cross-level causal mechanisms, network structural factors, individual heterogeneity and autonomy, the relationships among model assumption, inputs and outputs. COIN synthesizes theoretical or empirical evidence that can help construct these components from multiple disciplines (e.g., organizational research, statistics, physics, economics, and sociology). It decomposes the co-evolution process into key constructs and mechanisms and organizes existing theories around them. It also exposes gaps in related work which once filled can facilitate studies on network-behavior co-evolutio

Lin, Y.A., and Desouza, K.C. “Individuals’ Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework,” In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, San Antonio, TX (August 12-16, 2011).

What is Network Resiliency?

I hope to use this post to begin a discussion on this question. Specifically, how do we define network resiliency when examining large-scale public sector networks. These networks span multiple-levels from individuals to organizations and may even involve consortiums. Consider the case of the US intelligence community (USIC). The USIC involves both public sector organizations (e.g. CIA, NSA, FBI, etc) but also collaborates with intelligence agencies in other countries (e.g. MI6, BND) and even private organizations (Xe Services LLC). The USIC must ensure that its network is resilient. Its resiliency is dependent not only how well it plans for, and executes, responses to changes in its internal and external, but also how well its network (which consists of many organizations it does not have formal control, or even influence, over) fairs in times of crises.

Today, I was examining the literature in telecommunication networks for concepts that we could draw on. The engineering literature has a myriad of concepts that we could draw on to build a framework for organizational network resiliency. For example, consider the concept of load-balancing. Load balancing is essential to the design of robust electronic networks. While its primary purpose is to allow us to plan for efficient usage of resources, load balancing also helps with managing against overload on devices. To describe the concept without getting too technical, one might conceptualize load balancing as follows: incoming information requests to a network are distributed to the appropriate device within the network by a load-balancer. The load-balancer is responsible for routing the request to the best available device (different algorithms might be used for this, and we can have different criteria for determining the best device to route a request to). Load balancing can help us design failsafe mechanisms (for e.g., if one node is down then traffic is routed to a backup node).

Should we have load-balancing mechanisms for organizational networks? Absolutely! I actually think that organizational networks do have implicit load-balancers. Some view these as gatekeepers? Gatekeepers play a vital role in determining how information moves within networks. Do you know of any organizations that manage their gatekeepers mindfully? If so, how do they do it? Also, are there other organizational concepts that are similar to load-balancing?

During my visit to the CIS @ LSE, I conducted an inquiry into how ecological models might help us understand robustness of networks, especially terrorist networks. One idea that I worked hard on is how do agents within a network adapt under conditions of duress. For example, assuming you took away a food source from an ecosystem, how might the various entities (species) adapt and create work-a-rounds? Would the nature of competition among the species change? Would the patterns that drive the reorganization of the ecosystem be predictable?