The Emergence of Conventions in Online Social Networks

Winter Mason

The way in which social conventions emerge in communities has been of interest to social scientists for decades. Here we report on the emergence of a particular social convention on Twitter—the way to indicate a tweet is being reposted and to attribute the content to its source. Initially, different variations were invented and spread through the Twitter network. The inventors and early adopters were well-connected, active, core members of the Twitter community. The diffusion networks of these conventions were dense and highly clustered, so no single user was critical to the adoption of the conventions. Despite being invented at different times and having different adoption rates, only two variations came to be widely adopted. In this talk I describe this process in detail, highlighting insights and raising questions about how social conventions emerge. Additionally, our classification analysis demonstrates that the date of adoption and the number of exposures are particularly important in the adoption process, while personal features (such as the number of followers and join date) and the number of adopter friends have less discriminative power in predicting adoptions.

Presentation (PowerPoint File)

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