Posts Tagged ‘echo chambers’

information gerrymandering

Information gerrymandering in social networks skews collective decision-making

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02562-z

https://www.facebook.com/mariana.damova/posts/10221298893368558

An analysis shows that information flow between individuals in a social network can be ‘gerrymandered’ to skew perceptions of how others in the community will vote — which can alter the outcomes of elections.

The Internet has erased geographical barriers and allowed people across the globe to interact in real time around their common interests. But social media is starting to compete with, or even replace, nationally visible conversations in print and on broadcast media with ad libitum, personalized discourse on virtual social networks3. Instead of broadening their spheres of association, people gravitate towards interactions with ideologically aligned content and similarly minded individuals.

n information gerrymandering, the way in which voters are concentrated into districts is not what matters; rather, it is the way in which the connections between them are arranged (Fig. 1). Nevertheless, like geographical gerrymandering, information gerrymandering threatens ideas about proportional representation in a democracy.

Figure 1 | Social-network structure affects voters’ perceptions. In these social networks, ten individuals favour orange and eight favour blue. Each individual has four reciprocal social connections. a, In this random network, eight individuals correctly infer from their contacts’ preferences that orange is more popular, eight infer a draw and only two incorrectly infer that blue is more popular. b, When individuals largely interact with like-minded individuals, filter bubbles arise in which all individuals believe that their party is the most popular. Voting gridlock is more likely in such situations, because no one recognizes a need to compromise. c, Stewart et al.1 describe ‘information gerrymandering’, in which the network structure skews voters’ perceptions about others’ preferences. Here, two-thirds of voters mistakenly infer that blue is more popular. This is because blue proponents strategically influence a small number of orange-preferring individuals, whereas orange proponents squander their influence on like-minded individuals who have exclusively orane-preferring contacts, or on blue-preferring individuals who have enough blue-preferring contacts to remain unswayed.

social media and democracy

The biggest threat to democracy? Your social media feed

Vyacheslav PolonskiNetwork Scientist, Oxford Internet Institute
Yochai Benkler explains: “The various formats of the networked public sphere provide anyone with an outlet to speak, to inquire, to investigate, without need to access the resources of a major media organization.”
Democratic bodies are typically elected in periods of three to five years, yet citizen opinions seem to fluctuate daily and sometimes these mood swings grow to enormous proportions. When thousands of people all start tweeting about the same subject on the same day, you know that something is up. With so much dynamic and salient political diversity in the electorate, how can policy-makers ever reach a consensus that could satisfy everyone?
At the same time, it would be a grave mistake to discount the voices of the internet as something that has no connection to real political situations.
What happened in the UK was not only a political disaster, but also a vivid example of what happens when you combine the uncontrollable power of the internet with a lingering visceral feeling that ordinary people have lost control of the politics that shape their lives.

social media and democracy

Polarization as a driver of populism

People who have long entertained right-wing populist ideas, but were never confident enough to voice them openly, are now in a position to connect to like-minded others online and use the internet as a megaphone for their opinions.

The resulting echo chambers tend to amplify and reinforce our existing opinions, which is dysfunctional for a healthy democratic discourse. And while social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter generally have the power to expose us to politically diverse opinions, research suggests that the filter bubbles they sometimes create are, in fact, exacerbated by the platforms’ personalization algorithms, which are based on our social networks and our previously expressed ideas. This means that instead of creating an ideal type of a digitally mediated “public agora”, which would allow citizens to voice their concerns and share their hopes, the internet has actually increased conflict and ideological segregation between opposing views, granting a disproportionate amount of clout to the most extreme opinions.

The disintegration of the general will

In political philosophy, the very idea of democracy is based on the principal of the general will, which was proposed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 18th century. Rousseau envisioned that a society needs to be governed by a democratic body that acts according to the imperative will of the people as a whole.

There can be no doubt that a new form of digitally mediated politics is a crucial component of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: the internet is already used for bottom-up agenda-setting, empowering citizens to speak up in a networked public sphere, and pushing the boundaries of the size, sophistication and scope of collective action. In particular, social media has changed the nature of political campaigning and will continue to play an important role in future elections and political campaigns around the world.

++++++++++++++

more on the impact of technology on democracy in this IMS blog:

http://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=democracy