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date: 27 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Sociotechnical systems such as online social media play a central role in today’s society, connecting millions of people all over the world. From a research perspective, a multitude of studies have gathered data from these environments to frame and unveil major questions on human social behavior. The goal of this chapter is to overview some theory of social communication behaviors, attention, and opinion formation in techno-social systems and their effects on individuals’ and group behavior. Examples of data-driven studies on large social media illustrate how users of techno-social systems behave during social protests, how they engage in political conversation, how they contribute to diffuse misinformation, and how they react to the spreading of fear and panic during a crisis. A quantitative analysis of the Twitter conversation during two global events (the Gezi Park protest in Turkey and the 2014 Ebola crisis) is presented as a case study to illustrate these phenomena. Understanding the dynamics of attention and opinion formation online allows people to build safer social media environments, hindering the spread of misinformation campaigns, hate speech, and stigmas.

Keywords: social media, attention dynamics, public opinion, social protests, crisis response

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