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Coffee or Tea: The Emergence of Networks of Discourse in Two Online Political Groups.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Information Technology and Politics, Volume 9, Issue 3 (2012)


The activity of the Facebook Group, "Join the Coffee Party Movement" (Coffee Party) is studied during a 7-month period leading up to and following the 2010 United States Midterm election. During this time period, the Coffee Party Facebook Group Administrator account posted 872 parent posts which received 152,762 comments from participants. We examine the resulting electronic trace data utilizing a method for analyzing weighted social networks of discourse
(Mascaro & Goggins, 2011). Our findings explore the network centralization and total post activity across three units of analysis: a) Time, b) Parent Post Category and c) Specific Parent Posts. We report three key findings. First, the structure, centralization and leadership within the network differ in four key time periods: the time preceding the midterm election, the week of the midterm election, the time following the midterm election and the time period when the new
Congress was sworn in. Second, the Coffee Party Administrators act as agenda setters with the parent posts, but are also significant contributors to the discourse. Third, participants in the discourse alter their role depending on the specific parent post and category. Our findings have implications for issue groups and candidates who utilize social media tools to mobilize support,and engage with supporters and also provide a methodological contribution for computational social scientists that examine these groups.