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The Online Presence of OccupyColleges and Americans Elect Campus Leaders

In the waning months of 2011, two social movements claimed to erupt on college campuses across the nation.

On September 23 2011, the privatized-presidential-nomination 501c4 corporation called Americans Elect declared that it had “Americans Elect Campus Leaders” on 103 college campuses in the United States and began to use the tag AE Campus Movement in its news releases. “Over the next two semesters, these Campus Leaders will be mobilizing their colleges and signing up new delegates to be part of the Americans Elect online convention next summer. It’s a ‘hi-tech, hi-touch’ campaign that will use both online and traditional tools to engage the youngest generation in the nation’s newest presidential nominating process.” As of December 16 2011 Americans Elect had signed up official Leaders on 194 campuses. I cannot find a website for Americans Elect Campus Leaders outside the Americans Elect corporate page itself. The “Americans Elect College Team” has a Facebook page declaring “This group is for all of the Americans Elect Campus Leaders,” but it is closed to all but its members, 176 of which have signed up. The page has no public posts. I cannot find any Twitter account or Facebook posts associated with any terms related to Americans Elect Campus Leaders, College Team or any similar terms. The only Twitter post appearing to have anything to do with “Americans Elect” and “campus” or “college” is a December 28 Twitter post by the Americans Elect corporation linking to an infographic about college students on its website.

On October 2 2011, OccupyColleges started up with a website, Facebook page and a Twitter account. By the end of December, the OccupyColleges Facebook page had been liked by 7900 and had coordinated multiple student actions. Its Twitter page had over 3200 posts and featured over 7,000 followers.

The graphic below shows the social structure of the 612 Twitter posts featuring the text “occupycolleges” being shared during the last week alone — December 25 2011 to January 1 2012, a period when college students are on break and away from campus.

Network of Twitter Posts regarding "occupycolleges" from December 25 2011 to January 1 2012.  Image generated using NodeXL software for Irregular Times.

Twitter posts about OccupyColleges tend strongly toward interpersonal communication, with 602 out of the 612 posts mentioning other Twitter users. Tweets are focused in four groups. The most central account in Group 1 (light blue) is occupycolleges. Group 2 (dark green) is centered around tweets made by occupy_dc, johnzangas and occupyumd. Group 3 (dark blue) is a looser group with tweets coming from and being sent to nyu4ows and occupyedu. Group 4 (light green) is centered on communications sent to grandma_storm, re_occupy and owsstudentdebt. Despite the insistence by some that professional media figures are destined to play a central role in spreading online political communication, none of the most central figures in the OccupyColleges communication network are professional journalists or pundits. The OccupyColleges network is a prime example of decentralized grassroots activism. The online presence of Americans Elect Campus Leaders, by contrast, is practically nil.

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