Project

ODYCCEUS - Opinion Dynamics and Cultural Conflict in European Spaces

Goal: The project aims at a better understanding of the mechanisms and dynamics of information circulating in social media and digital news.
To achieve this goal it will combine methods from game theory, complex networks, dynamical systems and text analysis.
Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 732942.
www.odycceus.eu

Methods: Game Theory, Computational Linguistics, Natural Language Processing, Complex Networks, Opinion Dynamics

Date: 1 January 2017 - 31 December 2020

Updates
0 new
3
Recommendations
0 new
0
Followers
0 new
41
Reads
0 new
630

Project log

Claude Grasland
added a research item
This study proposes a geopolitical analysis of opinion dynamics based on a statistical exploration of a press dataset covering 2014–2019. This exploration questions three case studies of geopolitical and international interest: international migration, political borders, and pandemics. Through the framework of geopolitical agenda, the aim of this study is to question the “crisis” status of changes in the media coverage of the three topics in a cross-analysis and multilingual analysis of 20 western European newspapers. It concludes that there is a prevalence of national agendas.
Eckehard Olbrich
added a research item
The paper explores the notion of a reconfiguration of political space in the context of the rise of populism and its effects on the political system. We focus on Germany and the appearance of the new right wing party “Alternative for Germany” (AfD). The idea of a political space is closely connected to the ubiquitous use of spatial metaphors in political talk. In particular the idea of a “distance” between “political positions” would suggest that political actors are situated in a metric space. Using the electoral manifestos from the Manifesto project database we investigate to which extent the spatial metaphors so common in political talk can be brought to mathematical rigor. Many scholars of politics discuss the rise of the new populism in Western Europe and the United States with respect to a new political cleavage related to globalization, which is assumed to mainly affect the cultural dimension of the political space. As such, it might replace the older economic cleavage based on class divisions in defining the dominant dimension of political conflict. An explanation along these lines suggests a reconfiguration of the political space in the sense that 1) the main cleavage within the political space changes its direction from the economic axis towards the cultural axis, but 2) also the semantics of the cultural axis itself is changing towards globalization related topics. In this paper, we empirically address this reconfiguration of the political space by comparing political spaces for Germany built using topic modeling with the spaces based on the content analysis of the Manifesto project and the corresponding categories of political goals. We find that both spaces have a similar structure and that the AfD appears on a new dimension. In order to characterize this new dimension we employ a novel technique, inter-issue consistency networks (IICN) that allow to analyze the evolution of the correlations between the political positions on different issues over several elections. We find that the new dimension introduced by the AfD can be related to the split off of a new “cultural right” issue bundle from the previously existing center-right bundle.
Petter Törnberg
added a research item
Media scholarship has long argued that public discourse is a function of the architecture of the media by which it is carried. Media architecture is, as political economists have argued, in turn shaped by the capitalist regime of accumulation within which the media operate. This paper draws together these two strands of literature to ask: as the accumulation of data is coming to define contemporary capitalism, what cultural logic does this produce? The paper argues that, as media are shaped around the extracting user data, they become organized around personhood and the extension of commodification deeper into our sense of self. The lifestyle fragmentation and segmentation engendered by new media technologies carry over into public discourse, shaping a public, and political life defined by identity and difference. If, as Neil Postman suggested, a society’s way of knowing reflects its media technology, the emerging epistemology of the social media society is truth as identity, as our very ways of knowing are reduced to expressions of who we are.
Petter Törnberg
added a research item
Rising political polarization in recent decades has hampered and gridlocked policymaking, as well as weakened trust in democratic institutions. These developments have been linked to the idea that new media technology fosters extreme views and political conflict by facilitating self-segregation into "echo chambers" where opinions are isolated and reinforced. This opinion-centered picture has recently been challenged by an emerging political science literature on "affective polarization", which suggests that current polarization is better understood as driven by partisanship emerging as a strong social identity. Through this lens, politics has become a question of competing social groups rather than differences in policy position. Contrary to the opinion-centered view, this identity-centered perspective has not been subject to dynamical formal modeling, which generally permits hypotheses about micro-level explanations for macro-level phenomena to be systematically tested and explored. We here propose a formal model that links new information technology to affective polarization via social psychological mechanisms of social identity. Our results suggest that new information technology catalyzes affective polarization by lowering search and interaction costs, which shifts the balance between centrifugal and centripetal forces of social identity. We find that the macro-dynamics of social identity is characterized by two stable regimes on the societal level: one fluid regime, in which identities are weak and social connections heterogeneous, and one solid regime in which identities are strong and groups homogeneous. We also find evidence of hysteresis, meaning that a transition into a fragmented state is not readily reversed by again increasing those costs. This suggests that, due to systemic feedback effects, if polarization passes certain tipping points, we may experience runaway political polarization that is highly difficult to reverse.
Petter Törnberg
added a research item
The proliferation of digital data has been the impetus for the emergence of a new discipline for the study of social life: 'computational social science'. Much research in this field is founded on the premise that society is a complex system with emergent structures that can be modeled or reconstructed through digital data. This paper suggests that computational social science serves practical and legitimizing functions for digital capitalism in much the same way that neoclassical economics does for neoliberalism. In recognition of this homology, this paper develops a critique of the complexity perspective of computational social science and argues for a heterodox computational social science founded on the meta-theory of critical realism that is critical, methodological pluralist, interpretative and explanative. This implies diverting computational social science' computational methods and digital data so as to not be aimed at identifying invariant laws of social life, or optimizing state and corporate practices, but to instead be used as part of broader research strategies to identify contingent patterns, develop conjunctural explanations, and propose qualitatively different ways of organizing social life.
Petter Törnberg
added a research item
We investigate how users on a prominent forum for white supremacists interpreted and framed two seminal events for the far-right in the U.S., the elections of Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016. These cases precipitated dramatic shifts in the far-right alliance and conflict structure. We combine computational methods and qualitative analysis on a corpus of over ten million posts on Stormfront.org to show how movement actors framed institutional changes and constructed them as opportunities for action. We highlight grassroots framing, the collective and contested bottom-up processes through which external events are framed and reframed by online activists and thus shaped into opportunities for action. Our research demonstrates how users shifted from framing Obama’s election as a threat, to framing it as a “victory in disguise,” creating new opportunities for political action through extraparliamentary methods. Similarly, users framed Trump's election as creating possibilities for radical change through the established political system.
Eckehard Olbrich
added a research item
The paper explores the notion of a reconfiguration of political space in the context of the rise of populism and its effects on the political system. We focus on Germany and the appearance of the new right wing party "Alternative for Germany" (AfD). Many scholars of politics discuss the rise of the new populism in Western Europe and the US with respect to a new political cleavage related to globalization, which is assumed to mainly affect the cultural dimension of the political space. As such, it might replace the older economic cleavage based on class divisions in defining the dominant dimension of political conflict. An explanation along these lines suggests a reconfiguration of the political space in the sense that (1) the main cleavage within the political space changes its direction from the economic axis towards the cultural axis, but (2) also the semantics of the cultural axis itself is changing towards globalization related topics. Using the electoral manifestos from the Manifesto project database, we empirically address this reconfiguration of the political space by comparing political spaces for Germany built using topic modeling with the spaces based on the content analysis of the Manifesto project and the corresponding categories of political goals. We find that both spaces have a similar structure and that the AfD appears on a new dimension. In order to characterize this new dimension we employ a novel technique, inter-issue consistency networks (IICN) that allow to analyze the evolution of the correlations between the political positions on different issues over several elections. We find that the new dimension introduced by the AfD can be related to the split off of a new "cultural right" issue bundle from the previously existing center-right bundle.
Claes Andersson
added a research item
Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality (ETI) have been responsible for the major transitions in levels of selection and individuality in natural history, such as the origins of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, multicellular organisms, and eusocial insects. The integrated hierarchical organization of life thereby emerged as groups of individuals repeatedly evolved into new and more complex kinds of individuals. The Social Protocell Hypothesis (SPH) proposes that the integrated hierarchical organization of human culture can also be understood as the outcome of an ETI-one that produced a "cultural organism" (a "sociont") from a substrate of socially learned traditions that were contained in growing and dividing social communities. The SPH predicts that a threshold degree of evolutionary individuality would have been achieved by 2.0-2.5 Mya, followed by an increasing degree of evolutionary individuality as the ETI unfolded. We here assess the SPH by applying a battery of criteria-developed to assess evolutionary individuality in biological units-to cultural units across the evolutionary history of Homo. We find an increasing agreement with these criteria, which buttresses the claim that an ETI occurred in the cultural realm.
Anna Keuchenius
added a research item
Despite the prevalence of disagreement between users on social media platforms, studies of online debates typically only look at positive online interactions, represented as networks with positive ties. In this paper, we hypothesize that the systematic neglect of conflict that these network analyses induce leads to misleading results on polarized debates. We introduce an approach to bring in negative user-to-user interaction, by analyzing online debates using signed networks with positive and negative ties. We apply this approach to the Dutch Twitter debate on 'Black Pete'-an annual Dutch celebration with racist characteristics. Using a dataset of 430,000 tweets, we apply natural language processing and machine learning to identify: (i) users' stance in the debate; and (ii) whether the interaction between users is positive (supportive) or negative (antagonistic). Comparing the resulting signed network with its unsigned counterpart, the retweet network, we find that traditional unsigned approaches distort debates by conflating conflict with indifference, and that the inclusion of negative ties changes and enriches our understanding of coalitions and division within the debate. Our analysis reveals that some groups are attacking each other, while others rather seem to be located in fragmented Twitter spaces. Our approach identifies new network positions of individuals that correspond to roles in the debate, such as leaders and scapegoats. These findings show that representing the polarity of user interactions as signs of ties in networks substantively changes the conclusions drawn from polarized social media activity, which has important implications for various fields studying online debates using network analysis.
Livia van Vliet
added a research item
Social scientists have long studied international differences in political culture and communication. An influential strand of theory within political science argues that different types of political systems generate different parliamentary cultures: Systems with proportional representation generate cross-party cohesion, whereas majoritarian systems generate division. To contribute to this long-standing discussion, we study parliamentarian retweets across party lines using a database of 2.3 million retweets by 4,018 incumbent parliamentarians across 19 countries during 2018. We find that there is at most a tenuous relationship between democratic systems and cross-party retweeting: Majoritarian systems are not unequivocally more divisive than proportional systems. Moreover, we find important qualitative differences: Countries are not only more or less divisive, but they are cohesive and divisive in different ways. To capture this complexity, we complement our quantitative analysis with Visual Network Analysis to identify four types of network structures: divided, bipolar, fringe party, and cohesive.
Sven Banisch
added a research item
We combine empirical experimental research on biased argument processing with a computational theory of group deliberation in order to clarify the role of biased processing in debates around energy. The experiment reveals a strong tendency to consider arguments aligned with the current attitude more persuasive and to downgrade those speaking against it. This is integrated into the framework of argument communication theory in which agents exchange arguments about a certain topic and adapt opinions accordingly. We derive a mathematical model that allows to relate the strength of biased processing to expected attitude changes given the specific experimental conditions and find a clear signature of moderate biased processing. We further show that this model fits significantly better to the experimentally observed attitude changes than the neutral argument processing assumption made in previous models. Our approach provides new insight into the relationship between biased processing and opinion polarization. At the individual level our analysis reveals a sharp qualitative transition from attitude moderation to polarization. At the collective level we find (i.) that weak biased processing significantly accelerates group decision processes whereas (ii.) strong biased processing leads to a persistent conflictual state of subgroup polarization. While this shows that biased processing alone is sufficient for polarization, we also demonstrate that homophily may lead to intra-group conflict at significantly lower rates of biased processing.
Anna Keuchenius
added a research item
Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989 as a critique of feminist and critical race scholarship's neglect of—respectively—race and gender. Since then, the concept has been interpreted and reinterpreted to appeal to new disciplinary, geographical, and sociocultural audiences, generating heated debates over its appropriation and continued political significance. Drawing on all 3,807 publications in Scopus that contain the word “intersectionality” in the title, abstract, or keywords, we map the spread of intersectionality in academia through its citations. Network analysis reveals the contours of its diffusion among the 6,098 scholars in our data set, while automated text analysis, manual coding, and the close reading of publications reveal how the application and interpretation of intersectional thinking has evolved over time and space. We find that the diffusion network exhibits communities that are not well demarcated by either discipline or geography. Communities form around one or a few highly referenced scholars who introduce intersectionality to new audiences while reinterpreting it in a way that speaks to their research interests. By examining the microscopic interactions of publications and citations, our complex systems approach is able to identify the macroscopic patterns of a controversial concept's diffusion.
Marta Severo
added a research item
Tradurre oggi in italiano il libro Digital Methods di Richard Rogers, pubblicato per la prima volta in inglese nel 2013 da MIT Press, significa fare il punto sull'evoluzione delle scienze sociali in Italia e, in particolare, sul ruolo che stanno assumendo le tecnologie digitali nella definizione di nuovi metodi per la ricerca sociale. In particolare, Rogers propone di rovesciare l'approccio allo studio dei media, affiancando alle analisi tradizionali (come gli studi dei gusti del pubblico televisivo o, nel caso di Internet, l'analisi dei link per costruire delle classifiche e degli indici di popolarità tra siti web) nuove analisi di tipo sociale e culturale che partano dal medium stesso e dai dispositivi che esso offre (per esempio usando i link per studiare le politiche di associazione tra attori sociali). Questo significa innanzi tutto capire come funziona il medium e costruire strumenti e tecniche capaci di fornire informazioni sulla società a partire dagli usi che vengono fatti delle piattaforme su di esso disponibili. Richard Rogers riassume in questo testo una serie di esperienze realizzate negli anni precedenti con la sua equipe della Digital Methods Initiative, un progetto di ricerca avviato nel 2007 presso l'Università di Amsterdam (www.digitalmethods.net), dove l'autore è professore di medias studies. A partire dai primi studi sui link attraverso la cartografia del web e la costruzione del software IssueCrawler, Rogers ripercorre gli studi compiuti dal suo gruppo di ricerca sui principali elementi che costituiscono il web: prima di tutto i link e i siti web, per poi passare ai motori di ricerca e alla teoria delle sfere, fino ad arrivare a fenomeni più recenti quali gli archivi del web (fenomeno che oggi riscuote molta attenzione), i social media e Wikipedia. Ogni esperienza è descritta nei minimi dettagli empirici ma al tempo stesso è inserita nel quadro teorico generale degli studi su Internet e soprattutto ne è mostrato l'impatto sullo studio dei fenomeni politico-sociali. Il testo avanza spesso attraverso una struttura di domande e risposte, che può sembrare eccentrica e talvolta faticosa per un lettore italiano ma che in realtà permette di fare del lettore stesso il protagonista dell'esperienza empirica, facendogli vivere il tragitto del ricercatore che è dovuto passare da domande più tecniche del tipo "Come funziona un motore di ricerca e quali risultati fornisce?" a delle questioni rivelatrici sulla società come "Cosa possiamo dedurre sulla situazione politico-sociale di un Paese a partire dalle ricerche fatte su Google dai suoi abitanti?". In questo senso, l'autore riprende a più riprese l'esempio di una ricerca condotta dalla Digital Methods Initiative sul cambiamento climatico, in cui l'analisi dei risultati dei motori di ricerca è stata utilizzata per indagare l'evoluzione della discussione sulla tematica nel tempo e il gioco di forze tra i differenti attori coinvolti, con particolare attenzione per i climatoscettici. L'aspetto più interessante di questo libro è che esso ci offre oggi tre livelli di lettura che non erano necessariamente previsti dall'autore nel momento in cui scriveva queste pagine. In effetti, nei prossimi paragrafi, si cercherà di mostrare come il libro Metodi digitali non gioca solo un ruolo importante nella definizione degli sviluppi recenti della metodologia per la ricerca sociale, ma contribuisce anche agli studi su Internet in due altre direzioni più teoriche. In primo luogo, i vari capitoli sono l'occasione di ripercorrere la storia di Internet non solo come fenomeno sociale visto dall'esterno del medium ma anche con una prospettiva che parte dal medium stesso. Il testo ci mostra cioè in che misura l'evoluzione delle diverse piattaforme e soluzioni tecnologiche permette di spiegare le diverse fasi storiche di Internet in generale. In secondo luogo, il libro può essere riletto in rapporto alla situazione attuale e in particolare in relazione a ciò che è successo tra il 2013 e oggi. Certi entusiasmi si sono sedati e certi fenomeni emergenti si sono consolidati. I ricercatori della Digital Methods Initiative e altri studiosi di Internet hanno continuato a fare evolvere i metodi proposti in questo libro e l'analisi di tale evoluzione ci permette di inserire la riflessione sulla fine del cyberspazio, l'apoteosi della geolocalizzazione e l'avvento dei big data in un'ottica più a lungo termine.
Marta Severo
added 4 research items
Distribution électronique Cairn.info pour Presses de Sciences Po. © Presses de Sciences Po. Tous droits réservés pour tous pays. La reproduction ou représentation de cet article, notamment par photocopie, n'est autorisée que dans les limites des conditions générales d'utilisation du site ou, le cas échéant, des conditions générales de la licence souscrite par votre établissement. Toute autre reproduction ou représentation, en tout ou partie, sous quelque forme et de quelque manière que ce soit, est interdite sauf accord préalable et écrit de l'éditeur, en dehors des cas prévus par la législation en vigueur en France. Il est précisé que son stockage dans une base de données est également interdit.
Social research on public opinion has been affected by the recent deluge of new digital data on the Web, from blogs and forums to Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. This fresh type of information useful for mining opinions is emerging as an alternative to traditional techniques, such as opinion polls. Firstly, by building the state of the art of studies of political opinion based on Twitter data, this paper aims at identifying the relationship between the chosen data analysis method and the definition of political opinion implied in these studies. Secondly, it aims at investigating the feasibility of performing multiscale analysis in digital social research on political opinion by addressing the merits of several methodological techniques, from content-based to interaction-based methods, from statistical to semantic analysis, from supervised to unsupervised approaches. The end result of such an approach is to identify future trends in social science research on political opinion.
Après les « nouveaux mouvements sociaux » nés dans les années 1960, l'heure serait aujourd'hui aux luttes de territoire que nous définissons comme les « mobilisations politiques qui s'inscrivent dans un lieu, dont il est à la fois le support, le mobile et le principal enjeu » (Dechézelles et Olive, 2016). En France, l’effervescence militante et médiatique autour de la zone à défendre (zad) de Notre-Dame-des-Landes (NDDL) ces dernières années a entraîné une production éditoriale conséquente, militante tout d'abord, puis académique. Si, comme l'écrit Maria Kakogianni, la zad « est devenue le mythe structurel de toute une fraction du radicalisme contemporain » (Kakogianni, 2016), les travaux se sont multipliés tant en sociologie, en science politique qu’en géographie dans le champ académique francophone. Ce dossier thématique s'inscrit dans cette perspective qui vise à étudier comment le territoire devient enjeu de conflit. Si l'étiquette jugée infamante du syndrome NIMBY (Not in my backyard) a longtemps été utilisée pour disqualifier tout mouvement de contestation d'un projet d'aménagement, elle n'est plus guère mobilisée aujourd'hui (Sébastien, 2013) tant il apparaît que face au « déménagement du monde », un « ménagement du territoire » serait une option politique, écologique et éthique défendable (Vidalou, 2017; Des plumes dans le goudron, 2018). Tout conflit mobilise des représentations divergentes voire opposées et le propre des luttes de territoire est la création d'imaginaires spatiaux produits par les différents acteurs en présence. Le recours privilégié aux automédias n'est pas une nouveauté mais le caractère devenu incontournable de la communication en ligne est susceptible d'offrir une caisse de résonance inespérée aux luttes locales (Mabi, 2016), même si créer un blog, une page Facebook ou une chaîne Youtube ne signifie pas nécessairement qu'un public autre que déjà convaincu sera touché.
Richard Rogers
added a research item
Ushering in the contemporary 'fake news' crisis, Craig Silverman of Buzzfeed News reported that it outperformed mainstream news on Facebook in the three months prior to the 2016 US presidential elections. Here the report's methods and findings are revisited for 2020. Examining Facebook user engagement of election-related stories, and applying Silverman's classification of fake news, it was found that the problem has worsened, implying that the measures undertaken to date have not remedied the issue. If, however, one were to classify 'fake news' in a stricter fashion, as Facebook as well as certain media organizations do with the notion of 'false news', the scale of the problem shrinks. A smaller scale problem could imply a greater role for fact-checkers (rather than deferring to mass-scale content moderation), while a larger one could lead to the further politicization of source adjudication, where labelling particular sources broadly as 'fake', 'problematic' and/or 'junk' results in backlash.
Livia van Vliet
added a research item
This article introduces the Twitter Parliamentarian Database (TPD), a multi-source and manually validated database of parliamentarians on Twitter. The TPD includes parliamentarians from all European Free Trade Association countries where over 45% of parliamentarians are on Twitter as well as a selection of English-speaking countries. The database is designed to move beyond the one-off nature of most Twitter-based research and in the direction of systematic and rigorous comparative and transnational analysis. The TPD incorporates, in addition to data collected through Twitter’s streaming API and governmental websites, data from the Manifesto Project Database; the Electoral System Design Database; the ParlGov database; and the Chapel Hill Expert Survey. By compiling these different data sources it becomes possible to compare different countries, political parties, political party families, and different kinds of democracies. To illustrate the opportunities for comparative and transnational analysis that the TPD opens up, we ask: What are the differences between countries in parliamentarian Twitter interactions? How do political parties differ in their use of hashtags and what is their common ground? What is the structure of interaction between parliamentarians in the transnational debate? Alongside some interesting similarities, we find striking cross-party and particularly cross-national differences in how parliamentarians engage in politics on the social media platform.
Felix Gaisbauer
added a research item
This article analyses public debate on Twitter via network representations of retweets and replies. We argue that tweets observable on Twitter have both a direct and mediated effect on the perception of public opinion. On this basis, we show that through the interplay of the two network representations, it is possible to investigate which opinion groups on the platform primarily shape public opinion, and which ones remain silent to a disproportionate degree. The method is employed to observe public debate about two events: The Saxon state elections and violent riots on New Year's Eve of 2019 in the city of Leipzig. We show that in both cases, (i) different opinion groups exhibit different propensities to get involved in debate, and therefore have unequal impact on public opinion. Users retweeting right to far-right parties and politicians are significantly more active, hence their positions are disproportionately visible. (ii) Said users direct their replies primarily to other opinion groups, hence act more confrontational, while the contrary is not the case.
Richard Rogers
added a research item
Extreme, anti-establishment actors are being characterized increasingly as ‘dangerous individuals’ by the social media platforms that once aided in making them into ‘Internet celebrities’. These individuals (and sometimes groups) are being ‘deplatformed’ by the leading social media companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for such offences as ‘organised hate’. Deplatforming has prompted debate about ‘liberal big tech’ silencing free speech and taking on the role of editors, but also about the questions of whether it is effective and for whom. The research reported here follows certain of these Internet celebrities to Telegram as well as to a larger alternative social media ecology. It enquires empirically into some of the arguments made concerning whether deplatforming ‘works’ and how the deplatformed use Telegram. It discusses the effects of deplatforming for extreme Internet celebrities, alternative and mainstream social media platforms and the Internet at large. It also touches upon how social media companies’ deplatforming is affecting critical social media research, both into the substance of extreme speech as well as its audiences on mainstream as well as alternative platforms.
Sven Banisch
added 2 research items
News website comment sections are spaces where potentially conflicting opinions and beliefs are voiced. Addressing questions of how to study such cultural and societal conflicts through technological means, the present article critically examines possibilities and limitations of machine-guided exploration and potential facilitation of on-line opinion dynamics. These investigations are guided by a discussion of an experimental observatory for mining and analyzing opinions from climate change-related user comments on news articles from the TheGuardian.com. This observatory combines causal mapping methods with computational text analysis in order to mine beliefs and visualize opinion landscapes based on expressions of causation. By (1) introducing digital methods and open infrastructures for data exploration and analysis and (2) engaging in debates about the implications of such methods and infrastructures, notably in terms of the leap from opinion observation to debate facilitation, the article aims to make a practical and theoretical contribution to the study of opinion dynamics and conflict in new media environments.
What are the mechanisms by which groups with certain opinions gain public voice and force others holding a different view into silence? And how does social media play into this? Drawing on recent neuro-scientific insights into the processing of social feedback, we develop a theoretical model that allows to address these questions. The model captures phenomena described by spiral of silence theory of public opinion, provides a mechanism-based foundation for it, and allows in this way more general insight into how different group structures relate to different regimes of collective opinion expression. Even strong majorities can be forced into silence if a minority acts as a cohesive whole. The proposed framework of social feedback theory (SFT) highlights the need for sociological theorising to understand the societal-level implications of findings in social and cognitive neuroscience.
Eckehard Olbrich
added a research item
We present an open-source interface for scientists to explore Twitter data through interactive network visualizations. Combining data collection, transformation and visualization in one easily accessible framework, the twitter explorer connects distant and close reading of Twitter data through the interactive exploration of interaction networks and semantic networks. By lowering the technological barriers of data-driven research, it aims to attract researchers from various disciplinary backgrounds and facilitates new perspectives in the thriving field of computational social science.
Eckehard Olbrich
added a research item
Modelling efforts in opinion dynamics have to a large extent ignored that opinion exchange between individuals can also have an effect on how willing they are to express their opinion publicly. Here, we introduce a model of public opinion expression. Two groups of agents with different opinion on an issue interact with each other, changing the willingness to express their opinion according to whether they perceive themselves as part of the majority or minority opinion. We formulate the model as a multi-group majority game and investigate the Nash equilibria. We also provide a dynamical systems perspective: Using the reinforcement learning algorithm of Q-learning, we reduce the N-agent system in a mean-field approach to two dimensions which represent the two opinion groups. This two-dimensional system is analyzed in a comprehensive bifurcation analysis of its parameters. The model identifies social-structural conditions for public opinion predominance of different groups. Among other findings, we show under which circumstances a minority can dominate public discourse.
Rocco Tripodi
added a research item
We investigate some aspects of the history of antisemitism in France, one of the cradles of modern antisemitism, using diachronic word embeddings. We constructed a large corpus of French books and periodicals issues that contain a keyword related to Jews and performed a diachronic word embedding over the 1789-1914 period. We studied the changes over time in the semantic spaces of 4 target words and performed embedding projections over 6 streams of antisemitic discourse. This allowed us to track the evolution of antisemitic bias in the religious, economic, socio-politic, racial, ethic and conspiratorial domains. Projections show a trend of growing antisemitism, especially in the years starting in the mid-80s and culminating in the Dreyfus affair. Our analysis also allows us to highlight the peculiar adverse bias towards Judaism in the broader context of other religions.
Richard Rogers
added a research item
The ‘Alt Left’ is a term that could be thought to describe the loose movement of anti-fascists (Antifa) and others opposed to the rising ‘Alt Right’, especially in the US but also in Europe. Or does it?
Claude Grasland
added 2 research items
This paper proposes a quantitative model of the circulation of foreign news based on a gravity-like model of spatial interaction disaggregated by time, media and countries of interest. The analysis of international RSS news stories published by 31 daily newspapers in 2015 demonstrates, first, that many of the laws of circulation of international news predicted half a century ago by Galtung and Ruge and by {\"O}stgaard are still valid. The salience of countries in media remains strongly determined by size effects (area, population), with prominent coverage of rich countries (GDP/capita) with elite status (permanent members of UNSC, the Holy See). The effect of geographical distance and a common language remains a major factor of media coverage in newsrooms. Contradicting the flat world hypothesis, global journalism remains an exception, and provincialism is the rule. The disaggregation of the model by media demonstrates that newspapers are not following exactly the same rules and are more or less sensitive to distance, a common language or elite status. The disaggregation of the model by week suggests that the rules governing foreign news can also be temporarily modified by exceptional events that eliminate the usual effects of salience and relatedness, producing short periods of 'global consensus' that can benefit small, poor and remote countries. This paper concludes by recommending the use of a sample of carefully chosen diversified media rather than a large aggregation of data for global studies.
This article proposes a quantitative model of the circulation of foreign news based on a gravity-like model of spatial interaction disaggregated by time, media, and countries of interest. The analysis of international RSS news stories published by 31 daily newspapers in 2015 demonstrates, first, that many of the laws of circulation of international news predicted half a century ago by Galtung and Ruge and by Östgaard are still valid. The salience of countries in media remains strongly determined by size effects (area, population), with prominent coverage of rich countries (GDP/capita) with elite status (permanent members of United Nations Security Council, the Holy See). The effect of geographical distance and a common language remains a major factor of media coverage in newsrooms. Contradicting the flat world hypothesis, global journalism remains an exception, and provincialism is the rule. The disaggregation of the model by media demonstrates that newspapers are not following exactly the same rules and are more or less sensitive to distance, a common language or elite status. The disaggregation of the model by week suggests that the rules governing foreign news can be temporarily modified by exceptional events that eliminate the usual effects of salience and relatedness, producing short periods of “global consensus” that can benefit small, poor, and remote countries. The residuals of the model help to identify countries that are characterized by a permanent excess of media coverage (like the US or the Australia in our sample) or media that received a coverage more important than usual during several months (Yemen, Ukraine) or years (Syria, Greece) because a situation of long-term political or economic crisis.
Claes Andersson
added a research item
Despite remarkable empirical and methodological advances, our theoretical understanding of the evolutionary processes that made us human remains fragmented and contentious. Here, we make the radical proposition that the cultural communi- ties within which Homo emerged may be understood as a novel exotic form of organism. The argument begins from a deep congruence between robust features of Pan community life cycles and protocell models of the origins of life. We argue that if a cultural tradition, meeting certain requirements, arises in the context of such a “social protocell,” the outcome will be an evolutionary transition in individuality whereby traditions and hominins coalesce into a macroscopic bio-socio-technical system, with an organismal organization that is culturally inherited through irreversible fission events on the community level. We refer to the resulting hypothetical evolutionary individual as a “sociont.” The social protocell provides a preadapted source of alignment of fitness interests that addresses a number of open questions about the origins of shared adaptive cultural organization, and the derived genetic (and highly unusual) adaptations that support them. Also, social cooperation between hominins is no longer in exclusive focus since cooperation among traditions becomes salient in this model. This provides novel avenues for explanation. We go on to hypothesize that the fate of the hominin in such a setting would be mutualistic coadaptation into a part-whole relation with the sociont, and we propose that the unusual suite of derived features in Homo is consistent with this hypothesis.
Petter Törnberg
added 2 research items
Contemporary economic theory has entered into an era of unprecedented pluralism. Convincing arguments have been presented for the integration of this pluralism, the possibilities for which however rest on questions of ontology. This paper looks at two hubs of pluralist research, complexity economics and heterodox economics, to evaluate the possibilities for an integration. Complexity economics constitutes an ontological broadening of neoclassicism, but is based on an implicit and incomplete social ontology. Heterodox economics has been argued to be systematized by a critical realist ontology, but has been criticized for limits in the operationalization of this ontology. An ontological merge is sketched, resulting in Complex Realist economics, which is argued to be capable of resolving the ‘confused state’ of complexity economics, providing the heterodox tradition with the necessary methodologies to study the phenomena that it theorizes, and constituting a consistent ontological foundation for an ‘interested pluralism’.
Richard Rogers
added a research item
Social media data as source for empirical studies have recently come under renewed scrutiny, given the widespread deletion of Russian disinformation pages by Facebook as well as the suspension of Alt Right accounts by Twitter. Missing data is one issue, compounded by the fact that the ‘archives’ (CrowdTangle for Facebook and Gnip for Twitter) are also owned by the companies. Previously questions revolved around the extent to which corporate data collected for one purpose (e.g., advertising) could be em-ployed by social science for another (e.g., political engagement). Social media data also could be said to be far from ‘good data’, since the platforms not only change and introduce new data fields (‘reactions’ on Facebook), but also increasingly narrow what is available to researchers for privacy reasons. Profound ethical issues were also put on display recently during the Cambridge Analytica scandal, as science be-came implicated in the subsequent ‘locking down' of social media data by the corporations. How to ap-proach social media data these days?
Sven Banisch
added a research item
A multi-level model of opinion formation is presented which takes into account that attitudes on different issues are usually not independent. In the model, agents exchange beliefs regarding a series of facts. A cognitive structure of evaluative associations links different (partially overlapping) sets of facts to different political issues and determines an agents' attitudinal positions in a way borrowed from expectancy value theory. If agents preferentially interact with other agents that hold similar attitudes on one or several issues, this leads to biased argument pools and polarization in the sense that groups of agents selectively belief in distinct subsets of facts. Besides the emergence of a bi-modal distribution of opinions on single issues that most previous opinion polarization models address, our model also accounts for the alignment of attitudes across several issues along ideological dimensions.
Petter Törnberg
added 2 research items
Traditional scientific policy approaches and tools are increasingly seen as inadequate, or even counter-productive, for many purposes. In response to these shortcomings, a new wave of approaches has emerged based on the idea that societal systems are irreducibly complex. The new categories that are thereby introduced - like "complex" or "wicked" - suffer, however, by a lack of shared understanding. We here aim to reduce this confusion by developing a meta-ontological map of types of systems that have the potential to "overwhelm us": characteristic types of problems, attributions of function, manners of design and governance, and generating and maintaining processes and phenomena. This permits us, in a new way, to outline an inner anatomy of the motley collection of system types that we tend to call "complex". Wicked problems here emerge as the product of an ontologically distinct and describable type of system that blends dynamical and organizational complexity. The framework is intended to provide systematic meta-theoretical support for approaching complexity and wickedness in policy and design. We also points to a potential causal connection between innovation and wickedness as a basis for further theoretical improvement.
The viral spread of digital misinformation has become so severe that the World Economic Forum considers it among the main threats to human society. This spread have been suggested to be related to the similarly problematized phenomenon of “echo chambers”, but the causal nature of this relationship has proven difficult to disentangle due to the connected nature of social media, whose causality is characterized by complexity, non-linearity and emergence. This paper uses a network simulation model to study a possible relationship between echo chambers and the viral spread of misinformation. It finds an “echo chamber effect”: the presence of an opinion and network polarized cluster of nodes in a network contributes to the diffusion of complex contagions, and there is a synergetic effect between opinion and network polarization on the virality of misinformation. The echo chambers effect likely comes from that they form the initial bandwagon for diffusion. These findings have implication for the study of the media logic of new social media.
Richard Rogers
added a research item
Since the founding of the Internet Archive in mid-1990s, approaches to Web archiving have evolved from striving to save all websites to focusing efforts on those dedicated to riveting events (elections and disasters), national heritage and most recently the self in social media. Each approach implies or affords a certain historiography: site-biographical, event-based, national and autobiographical (or selfie) history writing. Having proposed a periodization of the history of web archiving and the kinds of histories implied by each period’s dominant approach, the article turns to the so-called ‘crisis’ in scholarly web archiving use, and proposes a methodological imagination to address it. Among the digital methods put forward to repurpose existing web archives, one may make screencast documentaries about the history of the web, create thematic collections and query them for social history purposes, conjure a past state of the web through historical hyperlink analysis and discover missing materials, and finally examine websites’ underlying code allowing for the study of tracking over time. In all the piece calls for inventive methods to invite the further use of web archives.
Justus Uitermark
added 2 research items
This is a study on the diffusion of novel scientific ideas. We examine how scholarly communities mediate diffusion in the academic landscape. As a case study, we analyze the diffusion of a specific scientific idea, namely the ’Strength of Weak Ties’ hypothesis, introduced by Granovetter in his 1973 paper. Using Web of Science data, we construct a network of scholars who referenced Granovetter’s paper. By combining topic modeling, network analysis and close reading, we show that the diffusion network features communities of scholars who interpret and use Granovetter’s hypothesis in distinct ways. Such communities collaboratively interpret Granovetter’s hypothesis to amend it to their specific perspectives and interests. Our analysis further shows that communities are clustered around figureheads, i.e., scholars who are central within their communities and perform pivotal roles in translating the general hypothesis into their specific field. The larger implication of our study is that scientific ideas change as they spread. We argue that the methodology presented in this paper has potential beyond the scientific domain, particularly in the study of the diffusion of opinions, symbols, and ideas.
Working towards a topology for politician retweet networks in 23 different countries using network measures.
Richard Rogers
added a research item
The article builds upon critical border studies for the study of the European migration crisis that take into account the digital, both in terms of telecommunications infrastructure and media platforms. In putting forward an approach to migration studies with digital devices, here the emphasis is shifted from “bordering” to “routing.” First, the current analytical situation is sketched as one where the “connective” route is contrasted to the “securitised” one, made by European policy and monitoring software. Subsequently, we ask, how are connective migrant routes being made into accounts and issues in social media? Two case studies are presented, each describing routing in terms of the distinctive accounts made of migrant journeying. In the first, routes are seen from the point of view of its curation in Getty Images, and in particular of the images privileged by its social layer. In the image collection, the “sanitised route” (as we call it) gradually leads to a soft landing in Europe, cleansed of anti-refugee sentiment. In the second, we ask how camps and borders are problematized from the point of view of the traveler using TripAdvisor. In the “interrupted tourist route,” would-be visitors are concerned with a Europe made unsafe, thereby rerouting their own journeys on the basis of social media commenting. We conclude with reflection about the advantages of employing social media in migration and border studies for the study of “media journeys” as routes from multiple vantage points, developing the idea that route-work also can be understood as platform-work.
Eckehard Olbrich
added an update
The 1st ODyCCEuS conference will take place 2018 in Leipzig from June 19-22. It will be the first event to present the project to a larger scientific audience. We will have scientific talks from all partners, but also a demonstration of the opinion observatory pilot. Invited talks from scientist that are not part of the project should provide external perspectives on the topics of the project. We will ask the stakeholders to learn about the project and to communicate their expectations and comments on the project. The members of the advisory board are invited to participate actively and to counsel the project. We expect to have 50-70 participants.
The conference will cover all topics that we are working on in the project ranging from game theory, over opinion dynamics modeling up to natural language processing and opinion mapping. There will be sessions on projective game theory, frames alignment and polarization, conceptual spaces for political communication or precision language analysis for argument mining.
 
Marta Severo
added a research item
Together with politics, international news is often considered to be one of the most prestigious fields of journalism. However, making international news attractive is increasingly difficult. Today, one of the main strategies employed by journalists consists in mentioning individuals in the news. The reader is supposed to identify with the mentioned individual(s), and the story is expected to be more successful as a consequence. This paper investigates the interest of using quali-quantitative content analysis to study the semiotics of international news. We analyse six daily newspapers from three developed countries and examine three complementary aspects of the relation between individuals and international news: the level of personification, the type of individual mentioned and the geographical scale to which individuals is connected.
Richard Rogers
added a research item
Vanity metrics is a term that captures the measurement and display of how well one is doing in the "success theater" of social media. The notion of vanity metrics implies a critique of metrics concerning both the object of measurement as well as their capacity to measure unobtrusively or only to encourage performance. While discussing that critique, this article focuses on how one may consider reworking the metrics. In a research project I call critical analytics, the proposal is to repurpose alt metrics scores and other engagement measures for social research and measure the "otherwise engaged" or other modes of engagement (than vanity) in social media, such as dominant voice, concern, commitment, positioning, and alignment. It thereby furnishes digital methods-or the repurposing of platform data and methods for social research-with a conceptual and applied research agenda concerning social media metrics.
Eckehard Olbrich
added a research item
We explore a new mechanism to explain polarization phenomena in opinion dynamics. The model is based on the idea that agents evaluate alternative views on the basis of the social feedback obtained on expressing them. A high support of the favored and therefore expressed opinion in the social environment, is treated as a positive social feedback which reinforces the value associated to this opinion. In this paper we concentrate on the model with dyadic communication and encounter probabilities defined by an unweighted, time-homogeneous network. The model captures polarization dynamics more plausibly compared to bounded confidence opinion models and avoids extensive opinion flipping usually present in binary opinion dynamics. We perform systematic simulation experiments to understand the role of network connectivity for the emergence of polarization.
Richard Rogers
added a research item
Among the conceptual and methodological opportunities afforded by the Internet Archive, and more specifically, the WayBack Machine, is the capacity to capture and “play back” the history a web page, most notably a website's homepage. These playbacks could be construed as “website histories”, distinctive at least in principle from other uses put to the Internet Archive such as “digital history” and “Internet history”. In the following, common use cases for web archives are put forward in a discussion of digital source criticism. Thereafter, I situate website history within traditions in web historiography. The particular approach to website history introduced here is called “screencast documentaries”. Building upon Jon Udell's pioneering screencapturing work retelling the edit history of a Wikipedia page, I discuss overarching strategies for narrating screencast documentaries of websites, namely histories of the Web as seen through the changes to a single page, media histories as negotiations between new and old media as well as digital histories made from scrutinising changes to the list of priorities at a tone-setting institution such as whitehouse.gov.
Richard Rogers
added an update
Eckehard Olbrich
added a project goal
The project aims at a better understanding of the mechanisms and dynamics of information circulating in social media and digital news.
To achieve this goal it will combine methods from game theory, complex networks, dynamical systems and text analysis.
Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 732942.