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Salience vs. Commitment: Dynamics of Political Hashtags in Russian Twitter

The Berkman Center is pleased to announce the next publication in its series on the Russian Internet:

“Salience vs. Commitment: Dynamics of Political Hashtags in Russian Twitter”
By Vladimir Barash and John Kelly

Building off our recent mapping of Russian Twitter, in this paper we analyze the dynamics of political hashtags representing a range of political issues and big news stories–from terrorist bombings, to pro-government issues, to topics preferred by the opposition. This work was made possible thanks to the generous support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Social media sites like Twitter enable users to engage in the spread of contagious phenomena: everything from information and rumors to social movements and virally marketed products. In particular, Twitter has been observed to function as a platform for political discourse, allowing political movements to spread their message and engage supporters, and also as a platform for information diffusion, allowing everyone from mass media to citizens to reach a wide audience with a critical piece of news. Previous work suggests that different contagious phenomena will display distinct propagation dynamics, and in particular that news will spread differently through a population than other phenomena. We leverage this theory to construct a system for classifying contagious phenomena based on the properties of their propagation dynamics, by combining temporal and network features. Our system, applicable to phenomena in any social media platform or genre, is applied to a dataset of news-related and political hashtags diffusing through the population of Russian Twitter users. Our results show that news-related hashtags have a distinctive pattern of propagation across the spectrum of Russian Twitter users. In contrast, we find that political hashtags display a number of different dynamic signatures corresponding to different politically active sub-communities. Analysis using ‘chronotopes’ sharpens these findings and reveals an important propagation pattern we call ‘resonant salience.’

This is the fourth in a series of papers that will be released over the coming months. Previous research on the Russian Internet include our baseline network analysis of Russian Twitter, “Mapping Russian Twitter,” our study of the Russian blogosphere, “Public Discourse in the Russian Blogosphere: Mapping RuNet Politics and Mobilization” and “Exploring Russian Cyberspace: Digitally-Mediated Collective Action and the Networked Public Sphere.” An overview of past and upcoming publications can be found here: For further information about the Berkman Center’s project on the Impact of the Internet on Russian Politics, Media, and Society please visit:

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