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Organisation in the Crowd

Alexandra Segerberg
Uppsala Universitet
W. Lance Bennett
University of Washington
Alexandra Segerberg
Uppsala Universitet

Abstract

Peer production networks are organizations that differ from earlier models of network organization based on assumptions of intentional association and exchange. Yet theories of peer production cover an astounding array of social forms from file sharing and flash mobs to sustained public protest. We propose to examine whether and how such varying networks may qualify as organizations by offering a framework along which they can be measured and compared. The aim is to understand the degree to which these differently organized digital media networks can perform various tasks and display structures and processes commonly associated with organizations. We propose three general criteria of organizational capacity that link recent peer production theory with more conventional network organization models. Organizations seem to do at least three kinds of things in repeated or routinized fashion: a) resource mobilization – gathering the material and symbolic stuff that (is thought to) better enable the organization to operate; b) responsiveness or adaptation to short term external conditions – recognizing near term threats and opportunities and adjusting responses in concerted fashion; and c) coordinated long term internal action – long range adjustments and shifts in action patterns due to power shifts or aimed at organizational survival or improvement. We assess the presence and strength of these organizational properties in Twitter networks from the US Occupy protests, in which Twitter clearly served as the dynamic overarching organizational mechanism in the Occupy network of networks. We work with a data set of some 60 million tweets gathered by the Social Media lab (SoMe Lab) at University of Washington. This analysis offers a finer grained understanding of the organizational capacities of what Bennett and Segerberg (2013) term crowd-enabled connective action.