A Biased Review of Biases in Twitter Studies on Political Collective Action


Frontiers in Physics, 4:34. doi: 10.3389/fphy.2016.00034

In recent years researchers have gravitated to Twitter and other social media platforms as fertile ground for empirical analysis of social phenomena. Social media provides researchers access to trace data of interactions and discourse that once went unrecorded in the offline world.

Researchers have sought to use these data to explain social phenomena both particular to social media and applicable to the broader social world. This paper offers a minireview of Twitter-based research on political crowd behavior.

This literature offers insight into particular social phenomena on Twitter, but often fails to use standardized methods that permit interpretation beyond individual studies. Moreover, the literature fails to ground methodologies and results in social or political theory, divorcing empirical research from the theory needed to interpret it. Rather, investigations focus primarily on methodological innovations for social media analyses, but these too often fail to sufficiently demonstrate the validity of such methodologies.

This minireview considers a small number of selected papers; we analyse their (often lack of) theoretical approaches, review their methodological innovations, and offer suggestions as to the relevance of their results for political scientists and sociologists.

Additional information

Peter Cihon and Taha Yasseri (2016)