3 april 2012

Oxford research into online activism funded by Google

Professor Helen Margetts

The Oxford Internet Institute has been awarded a grant of more than £40,000 to fund research into online political activism by Google.

The year-long project will investigate which factors influence the success or failure online political mobilizations - which have risen to public awareness with events like Arab Spring and the worldwide Occupy movement. It will be led by research fellow Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon.

'It is a very exciting time to be studying politics and the Internet,' said Institute director Professor Helen Margetts. 'We have seen how online collective action has led to recent reversals of UK government policy, underpinned events like last year’s London riots, and led to serious challenges to governmental authority across the Arab world.

It is a very exciting time to be studying politics and the Internet.

Professor Helen Margetts, Director of the Oxford Internet Institute

'Support from organisations like Google allows the OII to develop the innovative research methods we need to understand and interpret the dynamics of these new forms of political action that are being enabled by the Internet. This work is hugely important not only for public understanding of the rapid changes happening in today’s society, but also for governments as they attempt to re-engage with citizens in new, more dynamic, online environments.'

The research team will gather data from a range of online networks to understand how leading activists create opportunities to mobilize and how those opportunities diffuse in online networks. They will also look at how different entry routes to an online mobilisation affect the likelihood that ‘followers’ will join the mobilisation, and therefore its chance of ultimate success.

The project complements an existing programme of research by the Institute on political behaviour online, which includes pioneering research into the factors that influence a person to support a political cause.

The Oxford Internet Institute is a multidisciplinary research and teaching department in the Social Sciences Division, dedicated to the study of the impact of the Internet on society. Founded in 2001, it is one of the leading world centres for advancing public knowledge in the areas of online politics, economics, government, law, public policy, and everyday life.