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How protests come to life?

In this video Agata Komendant-Brodowska will discuss why social processes seem so unpredictable.
AGATA KOMENDANT-BRODOWSKA: I’m standing in the area of Warsow that was the scene of many demonstrations, big and small, for and against. Protests, whose magnitude surprised even the organisers, and those that were a disappointment. Demonstrations are a good example of a complicated process. Throughout the course, we will be using this example in order to investigate social dynamics and to explore how modelling and simulations can help deal with analysing it. Of course, it’s not only about demonstrations. You can apply this approach to a variety of different social processes, consumer behaviours, elections, ecology related choices, or educational decisions. So let’s think about the dynamics behind every demonstration.
In order to analyse it, we’ll be paying attention to the way demonstrations come to life as less or more individuals decide to join them. But before we start analysing this process, let’s just look for a second to a protest as a phenomenon. In general, before there’s a protest, there has to be an issue that makes people eager to voice their opinions. Usually, it’s something they are unhappy about. But what is interesting, even fascinating, is that this discontent sometimes translate to huge demonstrations, and sometimes, only a few people appear. Let’s think why it’s so hard to predict. First of all, we’re dealing with hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of people, deciding whether they want to go or not.
Let’s think about a broad category of potential protesters. All those who could go, it doesn’t mean that they eventually decide to go in the same way as potential customers of beer won’t have to buy it, but advertisements are addressed to a broader audience than just the buyers. So the first challenge with social processes is pretty obvious. We’re dealing with a large number of people. Secondly, people are quite complicated on their own. Individual decisions will be affected by the personality, awareness, and attitude towards the issue in question, how busy they are, if they have children or not. Even the weather may be important. In addition, people don’t act independently. They interact and influence one another.
Their decision may depend on who called them to ask if they were going, whether their friends are going or not, and they can also encourage or discourage the others. In different social processes, people can influence each other in various ways, both directly and indirectly. My eagerness to buy a certain product, or to wear a face mask, or to get vaccinated may be higher when I see all the people around me do it, or I see a certain celebrity acting this way. Even when I tidy up after my dog, this might encourage my neighbours to do the same. But there is more decisions that we make, change in time.
Even if I’m not interested in a certain issue today, it doesn’t mean that it will be the same in a week. I might change my mind thanks to the media, or my family members, or after observing the size of the protests last week. So what we’re dealing with is a large number of people who are quite complicated themselves and who interact with each other and influence one another purposefully or not. And all of that can change in time. No wonder it’s not so easy to predict how many people will eventually turn up and how certain movement will evolve. The general picture that we eventually see is painted by thousands of people who are connected in many different ways.
Sounds a bit complicated. Don’t you think?

In this video Agata Komendant-Brodowska will discuss why social processes seem so unpredictable with the use of an example of demonstrations and how they come to life.

She will also describe several reasons why it is difficult to predict the size of the protest. These include the following circumstances:

  • Large numbers of people are involved
  • People are complicated (and diverse)
  • People influence each other
  • Situations changes in time

These are also the reasons for why social processes in general are hard to predict.

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People, Networks and Neighbours: Understanding Social Dynamics

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