Mitchell centre seminar series
|Dates:||3 October 2018|
|Times:||16:00 - 17:30|
|What is it:||Seminar|
|Organiser:||School of Social Sciences|
Ella Guest, University of Manchester
(Anti-)Echo Chamber Participation: Examining Online Contributor Activity Beyond the Chamber
The existence of echo chambers as a phenomenon in social media has been widely debated in recent years. Previous research has attempted to alternatively support or refute the claim that online users strongly favour interacting with people of similar views. Much of this research has been on social networking sites such as Twitter where users directly connect with each other via following. A common difficulty faced by researchers of those platforms is how to define, and therefore identify, echo chambers.
My research overcomes the challenge of identifying “echo chamber” groups by examining a different form of social media, the social news website Reddit, where users interact with each other indirectly as part of topic-based communities. These discrete communities can choose to explicitly define how community members should behave. It is this feature of community-specific content policies that facilitates the identification of potential echo chambers. My research examines two communities: r/The_Donald, which demands echo chamber behaviour, and r/changemyview which discourages it; and the ways in which members participate with other communities on the platform.
By drawing on a large-scale dataset - the entire history of comments made on Reddit - I have been able to determine how these two communities differ not just from each other, but from all other communities on the platform. Contrary to expectations from the literature, I have found that participants of the echo chamber are much more active in a variety of other communities than the average Reddit user. As I will show in my presentation, techniques from SNA may allow us to understand this surprising phenomenon. Though this large but sparse data set has the potential for great insights, it also presents difficulties for applying traditional social network analysis techniques. As such, I look forward to hearing feedback from seminar attendees on potential next steps for this research.
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Humanities Bridgeford Street