Is Network Structure Important for Protest Mobilization? Findings from Agent-Based Modeling
In recent decades, the fo-cus of civic engagement research has shifted towards studying social environments’ effects on individuals’ decisions on whether to participate in a given activity or not. Online communication has been increasingly influencing the scale of social environments as well as the features of both online and offline inter-personal communications. Surely, then, individuals’ decisions concerning protest mobilization are bound to be affected by network properties. Using a series of ABM models with different network structures, we try to identify the structural factors of networks that can influence individuals who are deciding whether to join a protest. The established research in this field traditionally points to two structural factors: network topology and homophily. To our knowledge, however, the literature has not considered two above-mentioned structural factors in combination. In other words, their joint influence on protest mobilization has not been tested. To fill this research gap, we combine several network topologies with enabled/disabled homophily and examine how the combination influences protest turnout and survival. Numerical experiments show that homophily is positively associated with the survival of the protest, but negatively with its size for any network topology. Since we infer this conclusion from a theory-based computational model, we also propose how empirical testing can be conducted.