Digital Mobilization

Question: How can digital media increase our ability to mobilize successful collective responses to time-critical emergency situations?

Group Leader: Manuel Cebrian


Jason Bassett  
Leonardo Ferreira 
Ellen Ling 

We live in a world beset by an increasingly diverse and unpredictable array of threats. From terrorism to biological weapons, climate-change disasters to crowd panics, energy blackouts to cyber-attacks, these challenges reverberate across interconnected global networks, with their many benefits (e.g. speed of communication, potential for collaborative responses) and problems (e.g. hacking, malicious surveillance, disinformation).

The Digital Mobilization Research Group, led by Manuel Cebrian, investigates new ways to understand how digital technologies can enable crowdsourced intelligence for responding to and mitigating the impact of such threats. The research group studies these questions using tools from Network Science and Computational Social Science, with particular emphasis on advanced data-driven modeling and simulation tools.


  • Pickard, G., Pan, W., Rahwan, I., Cebrian, M., Crane, R., Madan, A., & Pentland, A. (2011). Time-critical social mobilization. Science, 334(6055), 509–512.
  • Cebrian, M., Coviello, L., Vattani, A., & Voulgaris, P. (2012). Finding red balloons with split contracts: robustness to individuals' selfishness. In STOC’ 12: Proceedings of the 2012 ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing (pp. 775-788). ACM.
  • Rutherford, A., Cebrian, M., Rahwan, I., Dsouza, S., McInerney, J., Naroditskiy, V., Venanzi, M., Jennings, N. R., deLara, J. R., Wahlstedt, E., & Miller, S. U. (2013). Targeted social mobilization in a global manhunt. PLoS ONE, 8(9), Article e74628.
  • Rutherford, A., Cebrian, M., Dsouza, S., Moro, E., Pentland, A., & Rahwan, I. (2013). Limits of social mobilization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(16), 6281–6286.
  • Cebrian, M., Torres, M. R., Huerta, R., & Fowler, J. H. (2013). Violent extremist group ecologies under stress. Scientific Reports, 3(1), Article 1544.
  • Stefanovitch, N., Alshamsi, A., Cebrian, M., & Rahwan, I. (2014). Error and attack tolerance of collective problem solving: The DARPA shredder challenge. EPJ Data Science, 3, Article 13.
  • Garcia-Herranz, M., Moro, E., Cebrian, M., Christakis, N. A., & Fowler, J. H. (2014). Using Friends as Sensors to Detect Global-Scale Contagious Outbreaks. PLOS ONE, 9(4), Article e92413.
  • Kryvasheyeu, Y., Chen, H., Obradovich, N., Moro, E., Hentenryck, P. V., Fowler, J., & Cebrian, M. (2016). Rapid assessment of disaster damage using social media activity. Science Advances, 2(3), Article e1500779.
  • Rizoiu, M.-A., Xie, L., Sanner, S., Cebrian, M., Yu, H., & Hentenryck, P. V. (2017). Expecting to be HIP: Hawkes intensity processes for social media popularity. In WWW ’17: Proceedings of the 26th International Conference on World Wide Web, Perth, Australia, May 3-7, 2017(pp. 735-745). International World Wide Web Conference Committee.
  • Baylis, P., Obradovich, N., Kryvasheyeu, Y., Chen, H., Coviello, L., Moro, E., Cebrian, M., & Fowler, J. H. (2018). Weather impacts expressed sentiment. PLOS ONE, 13(4), Article e0195750.
  • Epstein, Z., Epstein, M., Almenar, C., Groh, M., Pescetelli, N., Moro, E., Obradovich, N., Cebrian, M., & Rahwan, I. (2019). Towards a new social laboratory: An experimental study of search through community participation at Burning Man. arXiv,1903.04125.
  • Pescetelli, N., Cebrian, M., & Rahwan, I. (2020). BeeMe: Real-time internet control of situated human agents. Computer, 53(8), 49–58.
  • Rutherford, A., Cebrian, M., Hong, I., & Rahwan, I. (2020). Impossible by conventional means: Ten years on from the DARPA Red Balloon Challenge. arXiv,2008.05940
  • Hong, I., Rutherford, A., & Cebrian, M. (2021). Social mobilization and polarization can create volatility in COVID‑19 pandemic control. Applied Network Science, 6, Article 11.
  • Cebrian, M. (2021). A time-critical crowdsourced computational search for the origins of COVID-19. Nature Electronics, 4, 450–451.
  • Bassett, J., Pescetelli, N., Rutherford, A., & Cebrian, M. (2021). Time-critical decentralised situational awareness in emergencies: An adversarial biosecurity scenario. Applied Network Science, 6, Article 59.
  • Groh, M., Epstein, Z., Obradovich, N., Cebrian, M., & Rahwan, I. (2021). Human detection of machine-manipulated media. Communications of the ACM, 64(10), 40–47.
  • Ferreira, L. N., Hong, I., Rutherford, A., & Cebrian, M. (2021). The small-world network of global protests. Scientific Reports, 11, Article 19215.
  • Avraam, D., Obradovich, N., Pescetelli, N., Cebrian, M., & Rutherford, A. (2021). The network limits of infectious disease control via occupation-based targeting. Scientific Reports, 11, Article 22855.
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