Social and Behavioural Sciences
Rense Corten is associate professor at the Department of Sociology. His research revolves around the themes of cooperation, trust, and (the dynamics of) social networks, with empirical applications including adolescent networks, social media, the sharing economy, online criminal networks, and laboratory experiments. In 2016 he received an NWO Vidi grant for a research project on the origins and consequences of trust in the sharing economy.
Collective action in large-scale social media networks
Online platforms play an increasingly important role in the organization of political protest, civil unrest, and other forms of large-scale but self-organizing collective action. In many of these cases, groups in social media networks, such as Facebook- or Whatsapp groups, appear to play a crucial role in the diffusion of (potentially fake) information and the emergence of collective action. While a considerable sociological literature on the effects of network structure on collective action exists, this literature does not take the particular network structures of such platforms into account. Consequently, while the adoption of social media platforms such as Facebook and Whatsapp is extraordinarily wide-spread, as yet, we know little about the impact of such platforms on the likelihood and scale of emerging collective action, even though such collective action can have a considerable destabilizing effect on societies (for better or worse). In addressing this problem, I identify two key challenges that may benefit from (better) mathematical modeling: 1) To better model the topologies of these networks, given that empirical data is very scarce, and 2) to better model the emergence of collective action in large-scale social media networks, building on (and potentially unifying) the plethora of existing models of collective action.