Modelling free social spaces and the diffusion of social mobilization
Journal article, 2017

Free social spaces have long been emphasized in the social movement literature. Under names such as safe spaces, social havens, and counterpublics, they have been characterized as protective shelters against prevailing hegemonic ideologies and as hubs for the diffusion of ideas and ideologies. However, the vast literature on these spaces has predominantly focused on internal dynamics and processes, thus neglecting how they relate to the diffusion of collective mobilization. Inspired by formal modeling in collective action research, we develop a network model to investigate how the structural properties of free social spaces impact the diffusion of collective mobilization. Our results show that the assumption of clustering is enough for structural effects to emerge, and that clustering furthermore interacts synergistically with political deviance. This indicates that it is not only internal dynamics that play a role in the relevance of free social spaces for collective action. Our approach also illustrates how formal modeling can deepen our understanding of diffusion processes in collective mobilizations through analysis of emergent structural effects.

complexity theory

social network analysis

collective action



social movement studies

Free social spaces


Anton Törnberg

University of Gothenburg

Petter Törnberg

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Social Movement Studies

1474-2837 (ISSN)

Vol. 16 2 182-202



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