NETWORKING AGGIE: BROADCASTING INFORMATION TO TOPICAL COMMUNITIES
Modern agricultural systems are experiencing a revolution in how information is disseminated and exchanged among networks of outreach professionals, farmers, consumers, and community stakeholders. The traditional approach to agricultural extension relied on a top-down, continuum model that went from university researchers to cooperative extension and finally to growers. With internet penetration rates rising in rural communities, stakeholders are increasingly experimenting with social media and agricultural information has been widely shared across local, national, and global networks. This paper addresses such networks by deploying a supervised snowball census of the agricultural social web to investigate the formation of communities dedicated to sharing agricultural information. We identified a cohort of 153 individuals responsible for the outreach initiatives at the University of California and mapped the first and second level network of followers connected to this community, thus rendering a population of 59K users that tweeted 250M tweets since signing up to Twitter. We processed the content of each tweet posted in 2014 using multiple classifiers and determined that the boundaries of the network comprise 32K nodes and 4M edges. The resulting graph shows that this community is clustered in areas of agricultural expertise with limited overlap across cliques. We also found increasing patterns of core-periphery dynamics associated with the level of expertise attached to each topical subnet. The paper concludes by discussing related literature and the policy implications of our research.