Thursday, July 2, 2020

Washington journalists may be operating in even smaller, more insular microbubbles than previously thought, raising additional concerns about vulnerability to groupthink and blind spots

Sharing Knowledge and “Microbubbles”: Epistemic Communities and Insularity in US Political Journalism. Nikki Usher, Yee Man Margaret Ng. Social Media + Society, June 30, 2020.

Abstract: This article examines the peer-to-peer dynamics of Washington political journalists as Communities of Practice (CoPs) to better understand how journalists connect to and learn from each other and establish conventional knowledge. We employ inductive computational analysis that combines social network analysis of journalists’ Twitter interactions with a qualitative, thematic analysis of journalists’ work histories, organizational affiliations, and self-descriptions to identify nine major clusters of Beltway journalists. Among these are an elite/legacy community, a television producer community inclusive of Fox producers, and CNN, as its own self-referential community. Findings suggest Washington journalists may be operating in even smaller, more insular microbubbles than previously thought, raising additional concerns about vulnerability to groupthink and blind spots.

Keywords: media elites, political journalism, Communities of Practice, epistemic communities, Twitter, social network analysis

This project offers two interventions to augment our understanding about the news production processes of elite political journalists. First, it introduces the productive potential of a CoP approach, which can illuminate not just how peer-to-peer dynamics influence social learning, consensus, and shared practices, but also provides an entry-point for critical inquiry into the consequences of powerful actors inhabiting insular epistemic communities. Second, the article suggests a way to use big (or biggish) data from social media platforms in ways that can be conducive to more qualitative, humanistic questions of the kind we have asked here. Indeed, research questions approached from this perspective do not have to have definitive answers resolved by the case.
Our approach shows how loosely distributed networks of powerful political journalists self-organize in different CoPs (RQ1) and then explores the different logics for these CoPs (RQ2) to consider what kinds of knowledge-generation and shared practices might emerge (RQ3). Our findings suggest even smaller, more insular communities of journalism that function as silos or even “microbubbles” with their own sets of concerns. We know from existing research that these journalists are engaging in story ideas, joking around, and burnishing their own careers (Kreiss, 2016Mourão, 2015). They are doing so, however, within even smaller communities of like-minded journalists that have been previously considered. If journalists are talking to even smaller groups of journalists who share similar orientations, there is a real concern about the limitations of these epistemic communities in generating knowledge and information for the public. In these insular epistemic communities, newness is controlled and incorporated within these power domains (Barnes, 2005), and critique that veers outside the norm of general banter or the emerging consensus may be disregarded. Indeed, these microbubbles risk folding in on themselves, as Knorr Cetina (1999) suggests. In particular, it is concerning that CNN journalists are tweeting mostly to other CNN journalists about CNN. Even if this is an organizational mandate, it nonetheless serves as a powerful echo chamber that leaves CNN’s internal sense about what news matters unchecked and reconfirmed by those who work there. On Twitter, a platform absolutely integral to the political journalism news production process, CNN journalists have limited engagement with other Beltway journalists.
Previous research has suggested that journalists care more about their own branding than their organization’s; this self-branding tactic is a hedge against the precarity of the news industry (Molyneux, 2015Usher, 2014). However, across all clusters, we find that top mentions are often referential to the top media organizations represented in each cluster, which suggests Beltway journalists prioritize branding the organization they work for. Organizational affiliation is not a sufficient enough explanation for the heterogeneity of the communities, but these organizational ties provide an important counterpoint for previous presumptions about self-branding practices among journalists.
Would these communities look different given a different temporal slicing of the data? Perhaps. While the specific concentrations of the makeup of journalists might change, the underlying rationale for each epistemic community’s practice orientation around specific knowledge production would likely be consistent, given what we have observed based on the biographical details of Twitter bios, the range of organizations represented, and thematic consistencies among hashtags and mentions. Here, we focused on a single network in isolation, but the triangulation of several network structures (e.g., of follower networks) might illuminate other insights. We acknowledge our normativity in suggesting that media diversity in Washington should be desirable. However, these patterns on Twitter may be suggestive of an even more self-reinforcing journalistic experience than research has previously acknowledged.
Normativity aside, this research reveals that Washington journalism is far more nuanced than it might seem. In addition to the sub-communities of journalists, the epistemic foundations for their clusters suggest the importance of remembering there are multiple audiences and multiple stakeholders outside the generally accepted waterfall schematic of press–politics–audiences (Entman, 2004). These sub-clusters within Washington may be less immediately visible but they are not necessarily less important, and their potential influence on political actors and other journalists, not to the public, deserves our attention.
This research calls for more detailed analyses of media elitism in the United States and elsewhere. The dangers of journalists having limited perspectives are real. While this study does not purport to show possible worsening over time, it does provide support that shows siloed communities of journalists and thus offers an important, empirically grounded caveat about their vulnerability to groupthink and blind spots. While political journalists have been traditionally explored as part of the source-journalist “tango” (Gans, 1979) and examined within a broader political communication structure (cf., Entman, 2004), to stretch a metaphor, we argue it is important to consider what happens when journalists are dancing with other journalists, who they pick as partners, and the songs they dance to.

Assessment of a form of sexual victimization that often goes undiscussed: Being forced to penetrate another person (i.e., forced penetration)

Anderson, RaeAnn E., Erica L. Goodman, and Sidney S. Thimm. 2020. “The Assessment of Forced Penetration: A Necessary and Further Step Toward Understanding Men’s Sexual Victimization and Women’s Perpetration.” OSF Preprints. June 30. doi:10.1177/2F1043986220936108

Abstract: A unique form of sexual victimization that often goes undiscussed and, therefore, underassessed is that of being forced to penetrate another person (i.e., forced penetration). Due to forced penetration being a relatively novel addition to the definition of rape, there is a lack of assessment tools that identify forced penetration cases. Thus, the goal of this study was to assess the utility and validity of new items designed to assess forced penetration. More than 1,000 participants were recruited across three different studies to assess forced penetration victimization and perpetration. The rate of forced penetration victimization ranged from 4.51% to 10.62%. Among men who reported victimization of any type, 33.8% to 58.7% of victimized men reported experiencing forced penetration across the samples, suggesting this experience is common. All new and unique cases of sexual victimization identified by the forced penetration items were those of heterosexual men. These findings suggest that assessing for forced penetration would increase the reported prevalence rates of sexual victimization, particularly in heterosexual men (and correspondingly, rates of perpetration in women).

An Assessment of Hitmen and Contracted Violence Providers Operating Online

An Assessment of Hitmen and Contracted Violence Providers Operating Online. Ariel L. Roddy  &Thomas J. Holt. Deviant Behavior, Jul 1 2020.

ABSTRACT: Past research has considered the ways in which vendors and consumers of illicit goods adapt to various formal and informal threats and manage risk in online environments. However, this topic is virtually unexplored in the context of contract-based violence. Using a sample of 24 advertisements posted on the Open and Dark web, this study utilizes a qualitative case study design to analyze the ways in which vendors attempt to signal legitimacy through the language and images used in their posts. Further, this work outlines the advertised payment structures and prices based on the skill level of contract hitmen, the weapons used, the method of violence, and the status of potential victims. The analysis reveals several ways in which vendors emphasize the privacy and anonymity of their services and highlight their ties to well-recognized organizations (e.g., the military, the mafia) in an attempt to mitigate risk and uncertainty for consumers. In addition, results reveal that online list prices for basic services are higher than previous estimates for similar services offered off-line, suggesting a premium associated with legitimacy and anonymity. These findings contribute to the literature surrounding the market for contract violence, as well as online illicit market processes generally.

Brain implants to alleviate an ailment or to provide optimal human level performance are approved of, but are not accepted to gain superhuman performance (unless you are a science fiction fan)

Koverola, Mika, Anton Kunnari, Marianna Drosinou, Jussi Palomäki, Ivar Hannikainen, Jukka Sundvall, and Michael Laakasuo. 2020. “Non-Human Superhumans - Moral Psychology of Brain Implants: Exploring the Role of Situational Factors, Science Fiction Exposure, Individual Differences and Perceived Norms.” PsyArXiv. June 30. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Through five experimental studies we measured moral reactions to brain implants. We used three different measurements: 1) moral approval, or the general acceptance of brain-enhancing implants and people getting such implants, 2) perceived unfairness of the enhancement and 3) dehumanization of persons using brain implants. In our vignettes, the enhancement was on one of three levels: a) it alleviated an ailment, b) it gave optimal human level performance or c) it gave superhuman performance. Studies 1 to 4 were about memory enhancement, Study 5A about enhancing general intelligence and Study 5B about enhancing emotional stability.
We successfully showed that moral approval, sense of fairness and dehumanization are relevant in contexts where moral implications of new technologies are being evaluated and that while people generally approve of curing ailments, they are more cautious of unfamiliar levels of enhancement. Furthermore, we linked the tendency to condemn transhumanist technologies to factors associated with disgust sensitivity (the binding orientation of the Moral Foundations Theory and sexual disgust) and found that science fiction hobbyism is linked to approval of brain implants. We also successfully ruled out possible idiosyncrasies associated with our stimulus materials and eliminated multiple alternative explanations common in the study of moral cognition.

Overall, the results suggest that age is not reliably associated with individual differences in intertemporal choice tasks in adult samples; i.e., old age doesn't make for more patience

Seaman, Kendra L., Sade J. Abiodun, Zöe Fenn, Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin, and Rui Mata. 2020. “Temporal Discounting Across Adulthood: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” PsyArXiv. June 30. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: A number of developmental theories have been proposed that make differential predictions about the links between age and temporal discounting; that is, the valuation of rewards at different points in time. Most empirical studies that examined adult age differences in temporal discounting have relied on economic intertemporal choice tasks, which pit choosing a smaller, sooner monetary reward against choosing a larger, later one. The picture obtained from such studies is largely inconclusive due to a heterogeneity of results. We contribute to clarifying the current status of various theories of age differences in temporal discounting by conducting a systematic literature search and meta-analysis of adult age differences in intertemporal choice tasks. Across 37 studies (Total N = 104,736), we found no reliable relation between age and temporal discounting (r = -0.081, 95% CI [-0.185, 0.025]). Exploratory analyses of moderators found no effect of experimental design (e.g., extreme-group vs. continuous age), incentives (hypothetical vs. rewards), amount of delay (e.g., days, weeks, months, or years), or quantification of discounting behavior (e.g., proportion of immediate choices vs. parameters from computational modeling). Additional analyses of 12 cross-sectional data sets with participant-level data found little support for a nonlinear relation between age and temporal discounting across adulthood. Overall, the results suggest that age is not reliably associated with individual differences in intertemporal choice tasks in adult samples. We provide recommendations for future empirical work on temporal discounting across the adult life span.