Measuring information exposure in dynamic and dependent networks (ExpoNet)
The advent of Web 2.0 - the second generation of the World Wide Web, that allows users to interact, collaborate, create and share information online, in virtual communities - has radically changed the media environment, the types of content the public is exposed to as well as the exposure process itself. Individuals are faced with a wider range of options (from social and traditional media), new patterns of exposure (socially mediated and selective), and alternate modes of content production (e.g. user-generated content). In order to understand change (and stability) in opinions and behaviour, it is necessary to measure to what information a person has been exposed. The measures social scientists have traditionally used to capture information exposure usually rely on self-reports of newspaper reading and television news broadcast viewing. These measures do not take into account that individuals browse and share diverse information from social and traditional media on a wide range of platforms. According to the OECD's Global Science Forum 2013 report, social scientists' inability to anticipate the Arab Spring was partly due to a failure to understand 'the new ways in which humans communicate' via social media and the ways they are exposed to information. And social media's mixed record for predicting the results of recent UK elections suggests better tools and a unified methodology are needed to analyse and extract political meaning from this new type of data.
EXPONet will produce a set of tools allowing researchers to model exposure as a network and incorporate both social and traditional media sources. Whether one is consuming the news online or producing/consuming information on social media, the fundamental dynamic of consuming public affairs news involves formation of ties between users and media content by a variety of means (e.g. browsing, social sharing, search). Online media exposure is then a process of network formation that links sources and consumers of content via their interactions, requiring a network perspective for its proper understanding. We propose a set of scalable network-oriented tools to 1) extract, analyse, and measure media content in the age of "big media data", 2) model the linkages between consumers and producers of media content in complex information networks, and 3) understand co-development of network structures with consumer attitudes/behaviours.
In order to develop and validate these tools, we bring together an interdisciplinary and international team of researchers at the interface of social science and computer science. Expertise in network analysis, text mining, statistical methods and media analysis will be combined to test innovative methodologies in three case studies including information dynamics in the 2015 British election and opinion formation on climate change. However, developing a set of sophisticated network and text analysis tools is not enough. We also seek to build national capacity in computational methods for the analysis of online 'big' data.
Our twitter account is EXPONetProject and our project e-mail is email@example.com.
VOTEADVICE is a four-year research project funded by the European Commission to investigate the impact of new technologies on political behaviour.
Exeter Q-Step Centre
The University of Exeter Q-Step Centre integrates the use of cutting-edge quantitative methods with the study of substantive issues. Students learn by observing and engaging in real data-analysis with an innovative and hands-on approach.
Media in Politics
mediaeffectsresearch aims to advance the understanding of how the news media can influence political knowledge by using a cross-national approach to explore under which conditions the news media matter.
‘Media in Context: and the 2015 General Election: How Traditional Media Shape Elections and Governing’ conducts a ground breaking enquiry into the role of the media, both social and traditional, in the post-election period when media responses to electoral outcomes can affect the perceptions of the newly elected government. It seeks to develop a causal framework for interpreting the effects of media in the context of the General Election.
Matthew J. Williams, Iulia Cioroianu and Hywel T.P. Williams “Different News for Different Views: Political News-sharing Communities on Social Media Through the UK General Election in 2015” with, forthcoming in Proc. 1st International Workshop on News and Public Opinion, ICWSM 2016, AAAI.