Social Mobilisation

Collective action at scale

Time critical social mobilisation is when a large group of people collaborate to accomplish a task in a timely fashion. Often they are distributed and often their interaction is via internet enabled social media. The task to be accomplished could be a search for someone or something, a protest or a different task entirely. Some recent high-profile examples of social mobilisation include the #occupy movements and the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.

The 2010 DARPA Network Challenge, on the 50th anniversary of the internet, demonstrated the ability of social media to facilitate a time critical search for 10 balloons placed in unknown locations across the continental USA in under 72 hours. However, it was not known if this remarkable feat was reproducible.

A representation of the ease of finding a target in the New York and New Jersey areas via massive social search

Follow up work appearing in PNAS investigated the robustness of this result by systematically investigating the recruitment and search mechanism through high-precision numerical simulation. It was shown that successful location of the balloons relied on super users with high temporal activity who were able to recruit over long distances.

This concept was tested further in the simulated manhunt; the 2011 Tag Challenge, 5 'target' individuals in 5 global cities were located using social media and crowdsourced referrals. it was found that, remarkably, individuals acting collectively are able to instinctively leverage social ties to route a message efficiently through a global social network even under an extreme time constraint