Project

Political Communication (Computational)

Goal: social media discussion, social media protests, uncivil discourses, using computational methods in particular

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Project log

Hai Liang
added a research item
Social media platforms are increasingly being used as important sources for obtaining various types of information in the current digital age. While an increasing number of studies have investigated the factors that influence user's news content sharing behavior, few have paid attention to the reposting latency of online news contents. Reposting latency refers to the delay of interval time between original post publish time and repost time. Reposting activity on social media is an important type of user feedback behavior to the message received. The speed of the response could reflect user's processing efficiency and capacity. This study examined the possible factors that may influence users' reposting latency of news contents on social media. In doing so, we employed a multilevel negative binomial model to examine the impacts of issue attention, temporal usage pattern, and information redundancy. Our findings show that multiple issues could distract user's attention, thus leading to the low reposting speed. We also found a distributed temporal usage pattern could help shorten reposting time, while information redundancy and information overload could increase the reposting latency of news contents on social media. The findings of this study can contribute to advancing the understanding of news consumption behavior on social media. The conclusions have the potential to help in explaining and further predicting the success of news diffusion.
Hai Liang
added 5 research items
Grounded in intergroup threat theory, much research has illustrated the negative impact of the contextual presence of ethnic minorities construed as threats by the mainstream society on racial attitudes. This study examines the possibility that the presence of other “non-threatening” ethnic minorities could undermine such negative impact. We contend that the presence of genuine diversity can promote multicultural experiences and reduce people’s tendency to single out specific ethnic groups as threatening. Analysis of telephone survey (N = 2407) and government by-census data in Hong Kong shows that proportion of district residents being South Asians and proportion of district residents using Mandarin as their usual spoken language were associated with lower levels of social and political tolerance when proportion of district residents being other ethnic minorities was low. The negative impact became weaker when proportion of other ethnic minorities increased. The pattern of results was more conspicuous among less educated citizens.
Typically grounded in a discussion of contact vs. threat theory, much research has examined the impact of the presence of ethnic minorities in residential contexts on people’s attitude toward immigration. Yet, there has not been much evidence regarding whether the presence of a linguistically-defined minority can create similar impact under specific political conditions. This article examines Hong Kong, where the arrival of immigrants from mainland China has aroused controversies. The presence of Mandarin speakers, under the contemporary conditions, could be perceived as representing the cultural threat posed by China onto the city. Data from representative surveys were combined with district-level census data. The analysis shows that people living in a district with higher proportions of residents using Mandarin as the usual spoken language indeed favored more restrictive immigration policies. Contextual presence of Mandarin speakers also moderated the impact of tolerance and holding of negative stereotypes on attitude toward immigration.
Much contemporary social mobilization is digitally enabled. Digital media may provide the communication platforms on which supporters deliberate movement goals, share information, discuss tactics, and generate discourses in response to ongoing happenings. Yet digital media’s capability to serve these functions should depend on platform-specific affordances and movement dynamics. Based on such premises, this article examines how the online forum LIHKG became the central communication platform in the Anti-Extradition Bill Movement in Hong Kong. Empirically, digital media and content analysis data help establish the forum’s prominence during the first few months of the movement, while analyses of protest onsite survey data show how the use of LIHKG systematically related to several movement-related attitudes among the protesters. The article highlights the affordances and movement dynamics that allow the forum to play the role. It contributes to understanding the factors that shape the role and impact of digital media platforms in social mobilization.
Hai Liang
added a project goal
social media discussion, social media protests, uncivil discourses, using computational methods in particular
 
Hai Liang
added 3 research items
This study is concerned with the role of persistent online incivility in the dynamics of public opinion polarization. It examines how cyberbalkanization, contentiousness of the political context, online incivility, and opinion polarization at the collective level relate to each other. Focusing on Hong Kong and drawing upon data from different sources, the analysis shows that online incivility-operationalized as the use of foul language-grew as volume of political discussions and levels of cyberbalkanization increased. Incivility led to higher levels of opinion polarization. Online incivility, therefore, can be a mediating mechanism through which the political context and the phenomenon of cyberbalkanization exert influence on polarization.
Many contemporary networked social movements are marked by the absence of central leadership. This raises the practical question of (self-)organizing through communication. The online forum LIHKG was widely recognized as the central communication platform for supporters of the Anti-ELAB movement in Hong Kong. How can we discern whether forum users were engaging in action organization through discussion or merely having conversations? This study proposes that inequality in thread popularity could be a useful way in to tackling that question. An analysis of the contents of LIHKG between June and December of 2019 illustrates that signs of action coordination can be discerned by examining inequality in thread popularity and whether forum users’ attention increasingly concentrated on the most popular threads as the number of users increased. An examination of how attention competition and thread content combined to shape thread popularity then provides insights into the characteristics of the forum’s organizing efforts.
Contemporary networked social movements are often described as leaderless. However, social influence is inevitably unevenly distributed across participants, so informal and diffused leaders do exist. This study contends that analysis of informal and diffused leadership in networked social movements should examine whether such leadership is stable and what factors might explain who can take on a leadership role. Starting from these premises, this study investigates discussions of the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement in Hong Kong on the online forum LIHKG. Analyzing millions of movement-related and non-movement-related comments revealed that influence was highly unevenly distributed and that opinion leadership was more unstable in movement-related discussions. Opinion leadership was related to personal characteristics and communication activities, but sometimes in ways that were specific to movement-related discussions. Moreover, opinion leadership tended to stabilize over time. The findings provide insights into the characteristics of informal and diffused leadership in networked social movements.
Hai Liang
added a research item
Sharing cross-ideological messages on social media exposes people to political diversity and generates other benefits for society. This study argues that the diffusion patterns of political messages can influence the degree of selective sharing. Using a large-scale diffusion dataset from Twitter, this study found that messages that spread through multiple steps are more likely to involve cross-ideological sharing. Furthermore, the study found that this positive relationship is mediated by the distance between the sharers and originators of the messages and suppressed by the number of connections among the sharers. Overall, the study found that the viral diffusion model, in contrast to the broadcast model, increases the likelihood of cross-ideological sharing and thus increases political diversity on social media.
Hai Liang
added a research item
The present study examines political discussion forums from 54 societies and links communicative inequality to features of cultural traditions, value orientations, and political systems. Results show that inequalities among discussion threads in attracting readers’ attention and responses exist in all discussion forums. Most of the discussion threads received a small number of views and replies while only a fraction of them became popular. Most importantly, we found that communicative inequalities in online political discussion forums are subject to cultural and political influences at the societal level. Discussion threads received relatively more equal treatment in democracies, individualistic cultures, low power distance cultures, and yet less rational societies.
Hai Liang
added 4 research items
This study aims to explore the patterns and trends of Internet news use in a Chinese metropolis, Shanghai. By analyzing news webpage browsing data from three selected months in 2009, 2010, and 2011, we seek to present some evidence other than self-report data, which were widely used in past research but subject to the influence of memory limitation and social desirability. Our findings are: First, Internet users in Shanghai paid more attention to soft news, and finance and economy news, than to social and political news both in terms of visit times and visit duration. Second, news page visits and the amount of time people spent on reading news online suggest clear monotonic growth across all categories of news content over a three-year period. Third, despite the growing amount of visits and time used for online news, the proportion of visits and time devoted to news viewing to total webpage visits and time spent online decreased significantly. However, ?social and political news? and ?finance and econo
The oft-quoted John Dewey line ‘‘[d]emocracy begins in conversation’’ (Lamont,1959,p.58) highlights the political implication of free and vibrant discussions inmodern societies. Political discussion and conversation could enhance public opinion,which in turn influences political actors and their policies (Stromer-Galley W Schneider, 1996), and the interactive cap-ability of the Internet is expected to promote democratic political communication(Howard & Jones, 2003; Slater, 2007; Stromer-Galley, 2003). However, ambiguityremains regarding the extent to which new communication technologies could amplifycitizens’ enthusiasm toward opinion expression.Contrary to the notion that the Internet could bring empowerment to the public byoffering a virtual community for active expre ssion, communication, and interaction, mostusers do not participate very much. Instead, ‘‘ lurkers’’—people who consume informationonline but rarely or never contribute—are the majority in most online communities (Jones& Rafaeli, 1999; Nonnecke & Preece, 2000; Nonnecke, Preece, & Andrews, 2004). Morethan a decade ago, researchers found a high level of inequality in participation among usersof online discussion forum (Schneider, 1996), yet, sadly, the situation remains largely thesame in recent years ( Himelboim, 2008). The 1%rule,atermcoinedbyMcConnell andHuba (2006), describes the phenomenon that people w ho create content online constitute 1% of the people who use the Internet. Taking into consideration the fact that not allpeopleareconnectedtotheInternet,thescenario of participation could be gloomier.
Common ground is vital for developing deliberative democracy. The current study employs text mining techniques to measure common ground in online political discussions and examines how the structure of political discussions coevolves with common ground over time. The present study collected 175,960 messages over a period of 13 months, from a popular discussion forum on 2012 U.S. presidential election. Common ground is measured by a semantic similarity network and an interpretive framework network. The former emphasizes shared political knowledge, while the latter emphasizes shared interpretations. In addition, this study explores the coevolutionary process of political discussion and common ground. Results were obtained by employing longitudinal network analysis. They suggest that political discussions could facilitate the achievement of common ground that might further serve as a facilitator of political discussion among the participants.