Unravelling the key actors and the main topics of the Dutch energy transition hyperlink network
Nuccio Ludovico, Marc Esteve Del Valle, Franco Ruzzenenti1. Introduction
The energy transition is emerging as a major societal theme in the Dutch digital space. This theme involves governmental organizations, NGO's, private companies and media outlets in a dense network of digital interactions that can be represented as a hyperlink network (Park, 2003; Häussler, 2018). Investigating this network might shed a light on what actors set the agenda of the energy transition debate online and how these actors shape public’s access to the information on energy transition issues.
We developed a methodology to study the Dutch energy transition hyperlink network. Our results reveal the existence of a highly centralized network -with few authorities (Kleinberg, 1999) in which the debate on energy transition focuses on a reduced number of topics.
We used a four-step process to study the Dutch energy transition hyperlink network. In the first step, we selected 14 "seeds" (URLs of an actor website) representing key Dutch organizations (governmental institutions, private companies, media outlets, etc.) and employed the IssueCralwer (Rogers, 2013) to longitudinally collect data (February 2019 – December 2020) from the interactions (hyperlinks) among their websites (2,044 URLs and 76,116 links extracted). As a second step, we extracted the content of the actors’ websites with a link to energy transition issues. Furthermore, we extracted information about each of the actors’ geographical location. These steps allowed us to detect the Dutch actors in the network with a relevant stake in the energy transition debate (N= 88). As a last step, we carried out social network and computational text analyses (structural topic model).
Our results show the existence of a highly centralized network in which few authorities concentrate most of the communication ﬂows. Of relevance, it is the leading role played in the network by some public and private entities (e.g. NVDE and Itho Daalderop) which are both the most active content promoters and the most authoritative actors (both in terms of indegree and outdegree).
The results of our topic model show that the energy transition debate revolve around 10 topics which can be grouped in two clusters: "Market" and "Governance". In the first cluster (76.4% of the corpus), we find topics reflecting the markets involved in energy transition. Among these, the wind energy market -very prosperous in the Netherlands- takes a leading role ("Wind Energy"; 13.9 % of the corpus). This topic is followed by 3 topics representing the utilities market ("Heating Market", "Solar energy and electricity" and "Gas power”; 37 % of the corpus). Other relevant topics in this cluster are the electric mobility market ("Electric Vehicles") and the infrastructure market for sustainable energy production ("Infrastructures"). As for the “Governance” cluster, this is represented by three topics related to relevant political and governance activities at different levels ("Global", "National" and "Regional"; 23.6% of the corpus).
In sum, our results reveal the existence of a Dutch energy transition hyperlink network in which few actors concentrate most of the communication ﬂows. In addition, these flows revolve around a limited number of market-oriented topics.