Social Media Public Opinion as Flocks in a Murmuration: Conceptualizing and Measuring Opinion Expression on Social Media

We propose a new way of imagining and measuring opinions emerging from social media. As people tend to connect with like-minded others and express opinions in response to current events on social media, social media public opinion is naturally occurring, temporally sensitive, and inherently social. Our framework for measuring social media public opinion first samples targeted nodes from a large social graph and identifies homogeneous, interactive, and stable networks of actors, which we call “flocks,” based on social network structure, and then measures and presents opinions of flocks. We apply this framework to Twitter and provide empirical evidence for flocks being meaningful units of analysis and flock membership predicting opinion expression. Through contextualizing social media public opinion by foregrounding the various homogeneous networks it is embedded in, we highlight the need to go beyond the aggregate-level measurement of social media public opinion and study the social dynamics of opinion expression using social media.

Zhang, Y., Chen, F. y Rohe, K. (2022). Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. PDF descargable aquí.