For 32 months, Penn GSE’s Jonathan Supovitz and a team of researchers tracked the debate about the Common Core on Twitter. In the #commoncore project, they gained new insights into how people develop and wield influence on social media, with implications for our political discourse stretching beyond education policy.
After analyzing almost a million tweets, Supovitz and his team found a sophisticated set of savvy participants who creatively used social network principles, BotNets (tweeting robots that exploit network systems), hashtag rallies (bringing people together online to surge an advocacy message), and issue framing to leverage sets of relationships and move their messages effectively through a system.
The researchers also uncovered the Patriot Journalist Network, a loosely affiliated group of social conservatives that used innovative technologies to send coordinated tweets across a range of issues, including opposition to the Common Core. At their peak, #PJNET generated almost a quarter of the Common Core-related tweets in the network.
Instead of a traditional academic study, the #commoncore project is an interactive website designed by Penn GSE's web team (viewable at http://www.hashtagcommoncore.com/) that allows users to experience how the Twitter conversation evolved.
As Supovitz told The Washington Post, the Patriot Journalist Network grew from a minor player in the Common Core debate to a major force in the discussion. He expects groups will increasingly use strategies like this to amplify their voices.
“I think it has huge influence,” Supovitz told the Post. “It’s a harbinger, right? This is the future.”