Cultural Dimensions in Twitter: Time, Individualism and Power

author: Ruth Garcia Gavilanes, Yahoo! Research Barcelona
published: April 3, 2014,   recorded: July 2013,   views: 2103

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Previous studies have established the link between one’s actions (e.g., engaging with others vs. minding one’s own business) and one’s national culture (e.g., collectivist vs. individualistic), and such actions have been shown to be important as they are collectively affiliated with a country’s economic outcomes (e.g., Gross Domestic Product). Hitherto there has not been any systematic study of whether one’s action on Twitter (e.g., deciding when to post messages) is linked to one’s culture (e.g., country’s Pace of Life). To fix that, we build different network snapshots starting from 55,000 seed users on Twitter, and we do so for 10 weeks across 30 countries (after filtering those with low penetration rates) for a total of 2.34Mprofiles. Based on Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions and Levine’s Pace of Life theory, we consider three behavioral patterns on Twitter (i.e., temporal predictability of tweets, engaging with others, and supporting others who are less popular) and associate them with three different dimensions derived from the two theories: Pace of Life, Individualism and Power Distance. We find the following strong correlations: activity predictability negatively correlates with Pace of Life (r = −0.62), tweets with mentions negatively correlates with Individualism (r = −0.55), and power (e.g, Twitter popularity) imbalance in relationships (between, for example, two users mentioning each other) is correlated with Power Distance (r = 0.62). These three cultural dimensions matter because they are associated with a country’s socio-economic aspects - with GDP per capita, income inequality, and education expenditure.

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