Sunday, November 25, 2018

Social media as a source of political information do not reduce the compatibility of individual issue horizons: they are not caught in an 'echo chamber' or reduce issue diversity, top issue focus or issue overlap with others

Stefan Geiß, Melanie Magin, Birgit Stark, Pascal Jürgens, „Common Meeting Ground” in Gefahr? Selektionslogiken politischer Informationsquellen und ihr Einfluss auf die Fragmentierung individueller Themenhorizonte in: M&K Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, Seite 502 - 525, Jahrgang 66 (2018), Heft 4,

Abstract: The diversification of the political information supply has raised concerns about social integration and collective democratic self-determination. Automatically personalised media content on social network sites such as Facebook which make use of individual online behaviour are often suspected of facilitating fragmentation. People with extreme political attitudes are particularly seen as vulnerable and likely to losing touch with society as a whole, for instance, if they are caught in an ‘echo chamber’. We draw on data from an innovative operationalisation of issue fragmentation using individual-level data, investigating whether the use of such content reduces the compatibility of individual issue horizons; i.e. reduced issue diversity, top issue focus, and issue overlap with others. We also investigate how this contributes to the fragmentation of society, both generally and among political extremists. Empirically, we rely on data from a two-week daily diary study with 333 participants, who provided information on the two political issues they found most important on that day. Participants also specified which sources they relied on for political information about the relevant issue. Our results show that social media as a source of political information do not reduce the compatibility of individual issue horizons. However, relying on these media outlets increases the compatibility of issue horizons, particularly among those with extreme political attitudes. In conclusion, we discuss the implications of these findings for the self-determination of individuals and society in the digital world.

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