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[liberationtech] Cyber-sceptics wanted!

Giuseppe A. Veltri ga.veltri at
Thu Mar 3 02:44:12 PST 2011

Very nice and informative discussion, thank you.

As an observer not directly involved this field of research, I would say
that there is some evidence to sustain that weak ties are important. In the
social psychology literature, it refers to the  so-called  process of
''silent conversion'' . The paradigm of minority influence (Moscovici, 1976;
Maass and Clark, 1984; Mugny and Perez, 1991) demonstrates how established
norms change under dissent and introduces the distinction between active and
passive deviance. Consistent active minorities inform the majority and lead
them to reconsider their take on the world. Organized minorities influence
by inducing a latent conversion among the majority but miss out on the
credit for achieving this: the ‘sleeper effect’ ensures that we remember the
message but not its source. This all suggests two different processes of
social influence: majorities achieve conformity in public, while dissent
might continue in private; minorities make us rethink privately, while we
still conform publicly, but maybe only for a while. Minorities induce a
rethink about the world (informational processes), while majorities make us
consider others (normative processes).

Thank you



Moscovici, S. (1976) Social Influence and Social Change. London: Academic

Mugny, G. and Perez, J. A. (1991) The Social Psychology of Minority
Influence. Cambridge: CUP.

Giuseppe A. Veltri
personal email ga.veltri at
work email Giuseppe.Veltri at

On 3 March 2011 00:14, Yosem Companys <companys at> wrote:

> Pranesh,
> My answers below.
> Weak ties might act as fuel for movements, but they don't ignite them.  A
>> core set of strong ties (whether offline or online, whether they knew each
>> other from earlier or got to know each other well as part of the movement)
>> is required.
> In the absence of empirical evidence, we can't say this categorically.
>  Where's the data?  It's a good hypothesis though, and I agree with it, as
> my quotes from McAdam/Diani's work suggested.
>> I agree that weak ties are important.  (And disagree to the extent that
>> weak ties can get converted to strong ties: so Dean & Clark might have
>> started out as weak ties, but that subsequently changed (even before meeting
>> each other IRL).)
> How weak ties become strong ties, and vice versa, is rarely studied
> empirically in movements & revolutions because it's so difficult to collect
> good data on the phenomenon.  Longitudinal net analysts such as Powell,
> Strang, Tuma, Aral, Wasserman, Faust, Carley, etc. use event history
> analysis & hazard models to try to get at this.
> Some of the best work I've seen examines dynamic tie formation & change
> qualitatively.  For example, I wrote a working paper a few years back
> showing how weak ties became strong ties in 9/11.  The firm in question lost
> 90% of its staff, and so it called on its former employees (then weak ties,
> but previously stronger ties when they worked as employees) to come back and
> work for it; hence, strong -> weak -> strong again.
>>  In fact, in a message on the Gladwell thread on this mailing list last
>> year I'd written:
>>  2. Even traditional political advocacy can actually be based on weak
>>> ties.
> Most, if not all, successful political advocacy requires weak ties.  All
> social network analyses I've seen support Granovetter's original contention
> that information diffusion is not possible in the absence of weak ties.
>  Granovetter showed this was true in the context of finding jobs.  But
> scholars of movements & revolutions have found this to be the case there,
> and so have organization scholars in all sorts of organizations.  It's a
> pretty robust social and political finding.
> This is the problem with Gladwell's argument.  He claims categorically that
> offline (or as you say, IRL) movements use strong ties while online
> movements use weak ties.  This is just patently false based on the
> sociological and political data.
> Any movement based solely on strong ties -- whether online or offline --
> will not be a movement at all.  It will be a densely, interconnected, closed
> group that speaks to no other networks, like a family.  As Burt suggested,
> you need weak ties to serve as brokers to new knowledge.  Information
> diffusion a la contagion and epidemics not possible without weak ties.
>>       Thus social
>>> media-based advocacy can help convert some of those with only weak ties
>>> into those with stronger ties.  This is thus a case of one complementing
>>> the other.  Thus, I agree with Mary that this distinction is one of
>>> degree and of tendency, rather than absolute.
> Without empirical evidence, I don't see how we can categorically say
> anything about the relationship between social media advocacy and tie
> formation & change.  We can speculate on it, but we don't have any grounded
> evidence to advance an argument.  But empirical research on
> movements/revolutions does show organizing requires strong ties, but
> marketing/advertising/PR -- the basis of movement growth -- requires weak
> ties.
>>  In an offlist mail to Jillian I'd written:
>> It seems to me we are both in agreement in terms of his argument and its
>> weaknesses.  But while I conclude that for the most part I agree (focussing
>> on its strengths), you conclude that for the most part you disagree
>> (focusing on its weaknesses).
> I agree with the comments on the Twitter list @Liberationtech, where I
> believe Jillian also participated in a discussion about how we need more
> exchange between non academic media observers and academics.  Academics have
> grounded evidence to share with non academics to produce fascinating
> practitioner books like Gladwell's The Tipping Point.  Non academics often
> come up with new ideas, but have to be careful not to present them as
> empirical evidence.  These are simply propositions or working hypotheses
> that academics should explore further.
> I think it's dangerous to make non grounded arguments about social media in
> the context of movements/revolutions, especially since high-risk activism
> employing such advice could cost lives.
> Best, Yosem
>> - Pranesh
>> --
>> Pranesh Prakash
>> Programme Manager
>> Centre for Internet and Society
>> W: | T: <%2B91%2080%2040926283>+91 80 40926283
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