Occupy Twitter: Who are These People and What are They Saying?

Emily Chambliss

A month after the start of occupation and Twitter activity is at an all time high with tweets about Occupy Wall Street.  Since my last post, I improved our tracking[1] by including various topics and hashtags associated with the Occupy Movement.  The updated chart[2] depicts the movement continuing to gain Twitter mentions with each successive week with buzz peaking on weekends.  In the week from 10/8 to 10/14, average tweets per day increased 29% from the week prior representing the greatest awareness of the Occupy Wall Street movement in Twitter history.

But who are these people on Twitter talking about Occupy Wall Street and what do they have in common?

Although males dominate the conversations about Occupy Wall Street on Twitter, female participation increased nearly 10% in mid-September.  Currently, women make up roughly 30% of all participants involved OWS discussions on Twitter.  Although female participation has grown, under-representation of this demographic in OWS conversations may reflect our cultural gender norms.

In looking at behavior on Twitter and which roles individuals took, a notable trend emerges.  We measure behavior by defining those that tweet versus those that comment.  “Publishers” post content, whereas “critics” respond to a tweet.  The next chart shows the breakdown of Publishers versus Critics.

As weeks progressed, individuals on Twitter began contributing content more often than simply responding to others’ tweets.  Not only have the quantity of participants increased dramatically, the shift in behavior from reacting to acting suggests the development of unique opinions.  With more individuals taking active roles in OWS discussions, a greater diversity of voices emerge revealing a highly engaged community.

Avoiding the controversy surrounding the relevancy of trending topics, I chose to analyze the occurrences of specific hashtags and topics associated with OWS in order gauge what people are talking about.  [3]

Interestingly, the decline of hashtags #OccupyWallStreet and #OccupyWallSt and the increase of #Occupy and #OccupyTogether reflect that the movement is growing geographically.  A once localized protest on Wall Street is becoming omnipresent.  The rise of #Solidarity mentions confirms the growing unity of protestors across cities, states, and countries.  Additionally, the increase of #GeneralAssembly suggests that the Occupy movement, once criticized as disorganized and unfocused, is organizing to enact structural policy changes.  Based on this data, we can assume that Occupy movement is spreading and unlikely to die out soon.

I tracked several other topics associated with OWS and measured their frequency on Twitter.  Again we see the Occupy Together trend gaining popularity.  Likewise, increasing tweets about Oct15, declared a global day of action, and Times Square tweets reflect the Occupy movement’s global expansion.

The consistent high volume of NYPD mentions reflects an on-going discussion regarding the role of government in protecting first amendment rights.  Further semantic analysis and recent conversation trends[4] indicate that discussions about NYPD on Twitter are generally negative and adversarial.  The increase of CREDOmobile tweets, often including links to a petition to protect the protestors’ right to peaceful assembly, also reflects public concern about the law’s  ability to uphold our most basic rights as American citizens.

As the data collects, we are recording a significant event, not just in American history, but in global history.  Assuming that Twitter remains a valid source for social media, we retain a thorough record of an global movement that began on Wall Street.


[1] Our data analytics tool, Attention.AM, powered by Tra.cx and customized by Attention, sweeps the internet collecting publicly available information across various platforms including but not limited to: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, forums, YouTube, etc.

[2] Re-capturing past data revealed slightly greater volume of Twitter mentions compared with the results of my original post due to more comprehensive tracking.

[3] Units of time for each data point include seven days of aggregated data with the exception of the most recent time period from 10/15 to 10/19 containing only five days of data.   Due to this incongruous unit, volumes appear to decline.

[4] Attention.AM auto-generates a list of terms that drive conversations using an algorithm based on relevancy, response, and recency.

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