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Two years ago I started with a new column in the dutch mathematics magazine Nieuw Archief voor Wiskunde. For my column I interview PhD researchers in mathematics or in applied mathematics and I give a short overview of their research.

Last year, the September issue of NAW was a special theme issue with theme Mathematics in the social sciences, for that issue I contacted Anna Priante who did her PhD at the University of Twente. During her PhD Anna studied online social movement campaigns and investigated their efficiency in achieving social change.

In a nutshell

Social movement organizations widely use social media to organize collective action for social change such as health awareness campaigns. Social change can be achieved by promoting online conversations of impact and by inspiring people to move from their armchair to the street.

In order to understand how the transition from online action to meaningful (offline) action occurs Anna investigated various issues, one of which is how individuals interact and communicate with each other before, during and after the campaign.

When people use social media during campaigns they create relations with others via communication processes, which produce communication networks. Such communication networks represent the flow of information during the time period before a campaign has started, during the campaign and afterwards. Social change is then related to a significant amount of individuals interacting with each other, and probably also to a high flow of information in the network during some time period.

When mobilization is the result of a planned effort, as in the case with campaigns organized by social movement organizations, these communication networks tend to be highly centralized and have a ‘starshape’, where the campaign organizer usually occupies the center of the network. In other cases, high centralization is due to the presence of a small group of highly connected and committed (individual or organizational) actors.

The full article published in NAW can be read here! The featured image is taken from Anna Priante's PhD thesis.

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