University of Maryland

[CASCI Talk] Social Media Impact on Online News Consumption: Echo Chambers, Information Diversity, and Ideological Polarization

January 28th, 2020 by

Tuesday, February 11th, 2019
11:00 am – 12:00 noon
HBK South 2119


There is concern that social media creates echo chambers in which homophily in online social networks and filtering by content selection algorithms combine to limit exposure to diverse viewpoints, thereby encouraging individuals to adopt more extreme ideological positions. Yet, empirical evidence regarding the role of social media in the formation of echo chambers is inconclusive. We demonstrate that this may be due in large part to imprecision and conflation in the definition and measurement of echo chambers. To address this, we provide a more precise conceptualization of echo chambers as narrowed information diversity accompanied by increased ideological polarization. By articulating and separating these two distinct dimensions, elaborating on their potential combinations, and detailing the process by which social media impacts online news consumption, we provide a generative framework for future research. We demonstrate the value of this framework through an analysis of social media usage and online news consumption based on four years of web browsing history for a representative panel of 200,000 US adults. We find that social media usage is associated with a combination of increased polarization and broadened information diversity. These results contradict the prevailing assumption that polarization and narrowing of information diversity are mutually reinforcing and that they typically occur together. Although our findings call in question the existence of echo chambers as typically understood, they nonetheless reinforce concerns about negative impacts of social media on polarization.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Steven Johnson

Professor Johnson’s primary research area is online communities and other social media that support open innovation. Additional research interests include social network analysis, echo chambers, diversity, and emerging information technology. Professor Johnson has served as an associate editor for MIS Quarterly (2016-2019) and is an active member of the Organizational Communications and Information Systems division of the Academy of Management. They have taught numerous undergraduate and graduate courses, including systems and strategy, business analytics, and information technology management.

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On February 4th, CASCI will have a reading group to discuss an article selected by Steven Johnson to help inform his presentation and discussion. The pre-reading is not necessary to attend his presentation. All are welcome to join us for the reading group.

We will be reading:

Meeting Location

CASCI Group Activities:
2119 Hornbake Bldg. South Wing
11:00 am – 12:00 noon

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Remote Participation

This CASCI meetings are live streamed using WebEx.

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Meeting number: 732 243 809
Host key: 551358
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