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Homophily, Group Size, and the Diffusion of Political Information in Social Networks: Evidence from Twitter

November 20, 2014 Comments off

Homophily, Group Size, and the Diffusion of Political Information in Social Networks: Evidence from Twitter (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research (via University of Toronto)

In this paper, we investigate political communications in social networks characterized both by homophily–a tendency to associate with similar individuals–and group size. To generate testable hypotheses, we develop a simple theory of information diffusion in social networks with homophily and two groups: conservatives and liberals. The model predicts that, with homophily, members of the majority group have more network connections and are exposed to more information than the minority group. We also use the model to show that, with homophily and a tendency to produce like-minded information, groups are disproportionately exposed to like-minded information and the information reaches like-minded individuals more quickly than it reaches individuals of opposing ideologies. To test the hypotheses of our model, we analyze nearly 500,000 communications during the 2012 US elections in a social network of 2.2 million politically-engaged Twitter users. Consistent with the model, we find that members of the majority group in each state-level network have more connections and are exposed to more tweets than members of the minority group. Likewise, we find that groups are disproportionately exposed to like-minded information and that information reaches like-minded users more quickly than users of the opposing ideology.

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EU — Being human in a hyper-connected era – The onlife initiative

November 11, 2014 Comments off

Being human in a hyper-connected era – The onlife initiative
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

The “Onlife Initiative”, a project launched by the Commission’s DG-CONNECT, explores the societal consequences of on-going digital transition. DG-CONNECT will present the conclusions of this project during a STOA workshop in the European Parliament on 2 December 2014.

The STOA workshop takes as its evidence-base that mobile broadband access to the internet, the Internet of Things, big data, open data, cloud-computing, social networks, and new forms of internet-based collaborative and co-creation models, (such as commons-based peer production and crowdsourcing), result in the ever-increasing pervasiveness of ICT in all aspects of our lives.

The digital revolution is clearly on its way. Governments are deploying e-government and e-participation systems, and in the political sphere, the new concept of online e-democracy clearly challenges the old representative democratic model invented by the Ancient Greeks. Progress in robotics, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, self-driving vehicles, drones and smart factories may result in the massive automation (between 30-50%) of existing jobs in the next 20 years and will require changes to the education system for the new jobs that may be created.

Long-term prospects for health look promising and are aided by the rapid development of technologies such as low powered electronics, 3D printing and nanotechnologies. The application of the latest advances in gaming technologies to the learning and teaching environment already allows for dramatic improvemenst in education and vocational and education training in some sectors, such as medicine – a trend which looks likely to grow in the future. According to economists, the increased use of ICT in all sectors of the EU economy would be, all other things being equal, the most sensible way of increasing labour productivity and therefore growing the EU’s GDP per capita.

Ranking Twitter Discussion Groups

November 4, 2014 Comments off

Ranking Twitter Discussion Groups
Source: Microsoft Research

A discussion group is a repeated, synchronized conversation organized around a specific topic. Groups are extremely valuable to the attendees, creating a sense of community among like-minded users. While groups may involve many users, there are many outside the group that would benefit from participation. However, finding the right group is not easy given their quantity and given topic overlap. We study the following problem: given a search query, find a good ranking of discussion groups. We describe a random walk model for how users select groups: starting with a group relevant to the query, a hypothetical user repeatedly selects an authoritative user in the group and then moves to a group according to what the authoritative user prefers. The stationary distribution of this walk yields a group ranking. We analyze this random walk model, demonstrating that it enjoys many natural properties of a desirable ranking algorithm. We study groups on Twitter where conversations can be organized via pre-designated hashtags. These groups are an emerging phenomenon and there are at least tens of thousands in existence today according to our calculations. Via an extensive collection of experiments on one year of tweets, we show that our model effectively ranks groups, outperforming several baseline solutions.

Online Privacy as a Collective Phenomenon

November 4, 2014 Comments off

Online Privacy as a Collective Phenomenon
Source: arXiv.org

The problem of online privacy is often reduced to individual decisions to hide or reveal personal information in online social networks (OSNs). However, with the increasing use of OSNs, it becomes more important to understand the role of the social network in disclosing personal information that a user has not revealed voluntarily: How much of our private information do our friends disclose about us, and how much of our privacy is lost simply because of online social interaction? Without strong technical effort, an OSN may be able to exploit the assortativity of human private features, this way constructing shadow profiles with information that users chose not to share. Furthermore, because many users share their phone and email contact lists, this allows an OSN to create full shadow profiles for people who do not even have an account for this OSN.

We empirically test the feasibility of constructing shadow profiles of sexual orientation for users and non-users, using data from more than 3 Million accounts of a single OSN. We quantify a lower bound for the predictive power derived from the social network of a user, to demonstrate how the predictability of sexual orientation increases with the size of this network and the tendency to share personal information. This allows us to define a privacy leak factor that links individual privacy loss with the decision of other individuals to disclose information. Our statistical analysis reveals that some individuals are at a higher risk of privacy loss, as prediction accuracy increases for users with a larger and more homogeneous first- and second-order neighborhood of their social network. While we do not provide evidence that shadow profiles exist at all, our results show that disclosing of private information is not restricted to an individual choice, but becomes a collective decision that has implications for policy and privacy regulation.

Cell Phones, Social Media and Campaign 2014

November 4, 2014 Comments off

Cell Phones, Social Media and Campaign 2014
Source: Pew Research Internet Project

Cell phones and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are playing an increasingly prominent role in how voters get political information and follow election news, according to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center.

The proportion of Americans who use their cell phones to track political news or campaign coverage has doubled compared with the most recent midterm election: 28% of registered voters have used their cell phone in this way during the 2014 campaign, up from 13% in 2010. Further, the number of Americans who follow candidates or other political figures on social media has also risen sharply: 16% of registered voters now do this, up from 6% in 2010.

Voters of all ages are more likely to take part in these behaviors than in the previous midterm race, but that growth has been especially pronounced among 30-49 year olds. Some 40% of voters ages 30-49 have used their cell phone to follow this year’s election campaign (up from 15% in 2010) and 21% follow political figures on social media (up from just 6% in 2010). Voters in this age group now take part in each of these behaviors at rates nearly identical to 18-29 year olds.

Participation in the digital campaign does not have a clear partisan slant. Republicans and Democrats engage in each of these behaviors at similar rates. At the same time, when asked about some reasons why they might follow political figures on social media, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents express a greater desire to be the first to find out about breaking political news, and to say that they use social media to get political information that has not passed through the traditional media “filter.” Voters from both parties place a similar emphasis on the deeper connections that social media allows them to form with the candidates they support.

From “I love you babe” to “leave me alone” – Romantic Relationship Breakups on Twitter

October 13, 2014 Comments off

From “I love you babe” to “leave me alone” – Romantic Relationship Breakups on Twitter
Source: arXiv.org

We use public data from Twitter to study the breakups of the romantic relationships of 661 couples. Couples are identified through profile references such as @user1 writing “@user2 is the best boyfriend ever!!”. Using this data set we find evidence for a number of existing hypotheses describing psychological processes including (i) pre-relationship closeness being indicative of post-relationship closeness, (ii) “stonewalling”, i.e., ignoring messages by a partner, being indicative of a pending breakup, and (iii) post-breakup depression. We also observe a previously undocumented phenomenon of “batch un-friending and being un-friended” where users who break up experience sudden drops of 15-20 followers and friends. Our work shows that public Twitter data can be used to gain new insights into psychological processes surrounding relationship dissolutions, something that most people go through at least once in their lifetime.

Hat tip: ResearchBuzz

Participatory Budgeting: Ten Actions to Engage Citizens via Social Media

October 3, 2014 Comments off

Participatory Budgeting: Ten Actions to Engage Citizens via Social Media
Source: IBM Center for the Business of Government

Participatory budgeting is an innovation in direct citizen participation in government decision-making that began 25 years ago in a town in Brazil.

It has since spread to 1,000 other cities worldwide and is gaining interest in U.S. cities as well.

Dr. Gordon’s report offers an overview of the state of participatory budgeting, and the potential value of integrating the use of social media into the participatory process design. Her report details three case studies of U.S. communities that have undertaken participatory budgeting initiatives. While these cases are relatively small in scope, they provide insights into what potential users need to consider if they wanted to develop their own initiatives.

Based on her research and observations, Dr. Gordon recommends ten actions community leaders can take to create the right participatory budgeting infrastructure to increase citizen participation and assess its impact. A key element in her recommendations is to proactively incorporate social media strategies.

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