Article

The Mechanisms of “Incidental News Consumption”: an Eye Tracking Study of News Interaction on Facebook

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Abstract

This exploratory study examines how participants incidentally consumed news on social media through an eye tracking analysis of their visual interaction with posts on Facebook. By interaction, we refer to the attention participants gave to news (measured through the time devoted to looking at the content); how they read these news items (measured through ocular movements on the screen); and the way they engaged with this content (measured through forms of participation such as liking, commenting, or sharing news). The data were triangulated through interviews with Facebook users and an analysis of the metrics of posts from Costa Rican news organizations on Facebook from 2017 to 2020. We draw on scholarship in communication studies and multimodal discourse analysis. We argue for a more nuanced approach to what study participants did when they incidentally encountered news on social media that focuses on mechanisms, that is, the specific procedures and operations that shape user interaction with news on Facebook (such as visual fixations on parts of news posts; the visual entry points through which they begin to interact with the news; the sequences that characterize how they navigate content; and the time they spend assessing various multimodal elements).

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Chapter
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