Organization in the crowd: Peer production in large-scale networked protests

W. Lance Bennett, Alexandra Segerberg, Shawn Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


How is crowd organization produced? How are crowd-enabled networks activated, structured, and maintained in the absence of recognized leaders, common goals, or conventional organization, issue framing, and action coordination? We develop an analytical framework for examining the organizational processes of crowd-enabled connective action such as was found in the Arab Spring, the 15-M in Spain, and Occupy Wall Street. The analysis points to three elemental modes of peer production that operate together to create organization in crowds: the production, curation, and dynamic integration of various types of information content and other resources that become distributed and utilized across the crowd. Whereas other peer-production communities such as open-source software developers or Wikipedia typically evolve more highly structured participation environments, crowds create organization through packaging these elemental peer-production mechanisms to achieve various kinds of work. The workings of these 'production packages' are illustrated with a theory-driven analysis of Twitter data from the 2011-2012 US Occupy movement, using an archive of some 60 million tweets. This analysis shows how the Occupy crowd produced various organizational routines, and how the different production mechanisms were nested in each other to create relatively complex organizational results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-260
Number of pages29
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Occupy
  • communication as organization
  • connective action
  • crowd organization
  • peer production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Library and Information Sciences


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