Dr. Xabier E. Barandiaran (University of the Basque Country) and our researchers at the Technopolitical unit, Dr. Antonio Calleja-López and Dr. Emanuele Cozzo, coauthor the paper “Defining collective identities in technopolitical interaction networks” recently published by Frontiers in Psychology. This work features in the journal’s special issue “‘Inter-identities’ in Life, Mind, and Society,” and derives from the INTERIDENTITY reseach project in which CNSC members are involved.
Abstract: We are currently witnessing the emergence of new forms of collective identities and a redefinition of the old ones through networked digital interactions, and these can be explicitly measured and analyzed. We distinguish between three major trends on the development of the concept of identity in the social realm: (1) an essentialist sense (based on conditions and properties shared by members of a group), (2) a representational or ideational sense (based on the application of categories by oneself or others), and (3) a relational and interactional sense (based on interaction processes between actors and their environments). The interactional approach aligns with current empirical and methodological progress in social network analysis. Moreover, it has been argued that, within the network society, the notion of collective identity (Melucci, 1995) in the political field must be rethought as technologically mediated and interactive. We suggest that collective identities should be understood as recurrent, cohesive, and coordinated communicative interaction networks. We here propose that such identities can be depicted by: (a) mapping and filtering a relevant interaction network, (b) delimiting a set of communities, (c) determining the strongly connected component(s) of such communities (the core identity) in a directed graph, and (d) defining the identity audiences and sources within the community. This technical graph–theoretical characterization is explained and justified in detail through a toy model and applied to three empirical case studies to characterize political identities in party politics (communicative interaction in Twitter during the Spanish elections in 2018), contentious politics in confrontation (in Twitter during the Catalan strike for independence 2019), and the multitudinous identity of Spanish Indignados/15 social movement (in Facebook fan pages 2011). We discuss how the proposed definition is useful to delimit and characterize the internal structure of collective identities in technopolitical interaction networks, and we suggest how the proposed methods can be improved and complemented with other approaches. We finally draw the theoretical implications of understanding collective identities as emerging from interaction networks in a progressive platformization of social interactions in a digital world.