Is Social Media a Spiral of Silence Machine? From “Daily Me,” to Homophily Bias, Filter Bubbles, and Echo Chamber Effects

 
This is a learning module for the class Contemporary Social / Mass Media Theory taught at Purdue University by Sorin Adam Matei 

Can social media increase the effect of undesirable social communication processes, such as the echo chamber or spiral of silence? These are phenomena of social closure that are ingrained or cultivated by social media  due to design or dynamic biases, such as homophily.

The spiral of silence theory, which states that our need to belong may trump our free will,  is as old as mass media. However, this is not a mere medium effect. The focus of the theory is in fact on the social dynamics, rather than on technology, that lead to the lemming effect. Such dynamics do not change easily. Positions such as those expressed by Cass Sunstein, who believes that opinion closure could also be discerned in the echo chamber effect of the Internet, can in fact intersect the spiral of silence theory. Each echo chamber can be fueled by the logic of spiral of silence. In fact, due to social media fragmentation, we might have several spirals of silences working simultaneously, one for each major societal or political choice, rather than only one. 

English: echo chamber of the Dresden Universit...
English: echo chamber of the Dresden University of Technology Deutsch: Hallraum der TU Dresden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Spiral of Silence A Theory of Public Opinion – Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann. DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1974.tb00367.x Journal of Communication
Volume 24, Issue 2, pages 43–51, June 1974

“More frigthened to be isolated that of committing an error, they joined the masses, even though they did not agree with them.” Tocqueville 

Spiral of silence theory was launched by Noelle Neumann at the beginning of the 1970s during her groundbreaking research on social activism and voting behavior. Studying the electorate at a time of political upheaval in Germany, she noticed that political opinions were more likely to be expressed if the respondents saw themselves on the winning side of a debate. For example, at the time many Germans believed that ultimately Communist Germany and the Federal Republic of Germany will converge as a unified, neutral socialist entity. Thus, those that believed that socialism is the ultimate consequence of political progress were much more likely to speak up in public about this topic. Interestingly enough, these individuals were a relative minority in Germany. The answers to the question captured by the graph below refer to the question “would you like to discuss about socialism with other passengers on a train ride?” 

Some charts that illustrate the Spiral of Silence Theory

Perceived Support for One’s Opinions and Willingness to Speak Out: A Meta-Analysis of Survey Studies on the “Spiral of Silence” Carroll J. Glynn, Andrew F. Hayes and James Shanahan Page 452 of 452-463 stable URL http://www.jstor.org/stable/2749581

We report a meta-analysis of survey studies examining the relationship between people’s perceptions of support for their opinions and their willingness to express those opinions. Evidence from the analysis indicates the presence of a very small, but statistically significant, relationship between the degree to which a person believes others hold similar opinions and the willingness to express those opinions. Moderator analyses did not reveal significant moderators of this relationship, although the observed correlations were statistically heterogeneous, suggesting at least one undiscovered moderator.

Gilbert, E., Bergstrom, T., & Karahalios, K. Blogs Are Echo Chambers: Blogs Are Echo Chambers.

In the last decade, blogs have exploded in number, popularity and scope. However, many commentators and researchers speculate that blogs isolate readers in echo chambers, cutting them off from dissenting opinions. Our empirical paper tests this hypothesis. Using a hand-coded sample of over 1,000 comments from 33 of the world’s top blogs, we find that agreement outnumbers disagreement in blog comments by more than 3 to 1. However, this ratio depends heavily on a blog’s genre, varying between 2 to 1 and 9 to 1. Using these hand-coded blog comments as input, we also show that natural language processing techniques can identify the linguistic markers of agreement. We conclude by applying our empirical and algorithmic findings to practical implications for blogs, and discuss the many questions raised by our work.

Republic 2.0, Cass Sunstein – Chapter 1

Elie Pariser on the Filter Bubble

Sorin Adam Matei

Sorin Adam Matei - Professor of Communication at Purdue University - studies the relationship between information technology and social integration. He published papers and articles in Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Information Society, and Foreign Policy. He is the author or co-editor of several books. The most recent is Ethical Reasoning in Big Data. He also co-edited Transparency in social media and Roles, Trust, and Reputation in Social Media Knowledge Markets: Theory and Methods (Computational Social Sciences) , both the product of the NSF funded KredibleNet project. Dr. Matei's teaching portfolio includes online interaction, and online community analytics and development classes. His teaching makes use of a number of software platforms he has codeveloped, such as Visible Effort . Dr. Matei is also known for his media work. He is a former BBC World Service journalist whose contributions have been published in Esquire and several leading Romanian newspapers. In Romania, he is known for his books Boierii Mintii (The Mind Boyars), Idolii forului (Idols of the forum), and Idei de schimb (Spare ideas).

26 thoughts on “Is Social Media a Spiral of Silence Machine? From “Daily Me,” to Homophily Bias, Filter Bubbles, and Echo Chamber Effects

  • November 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm
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    The thought of social media as a spiral of silence machine is both interesting and a little frightening at the same time. It is reasonable for scholars to think of social media’s potential as a so-called spiral of silence machine, as it does seem that these days the social media environment is largely influenced by the opinions of the dominant groups (i.e., evidenced by social media conversations about the upcoming U.S. elections that are focused solely on the two parties’ candidates).

    However, upon considering the readings for this learning module, I think that it also makes sense to describe today’s social media environment as a series of echo chambers that may or may not exist as byproducts of spiral of silence effects. It certainly seems plausible that as a minority group feels limited to express their opinions in opposition to the majority group’s opinions that an echo chamber of these ideas could be generated as a “safe place” for the minority group members to communicate. However, it also makes sense that majority group members would form (i.e., “form” in the sense of develop or be generated – not always implying conscious actions) echo chambers where they could share their thoughts, and also that any other groups of people may want to form echo chambers to share their common ideas. Thus, echo chambers may not always necessarily be a consequence of silencing, but rather are self-generated communicative spaces where groups of people sharing similar ideas can reinforce their beliefs.

    In thinking about this I am reminded again of Uses and Gratifications Theory (Katz, 1974), which seems to fit well as an added layer to this discussion. Considering that individuals may seek out and use certain media in certain ways to achieve certain desirable outcomes, it is reasonable to say that echo chambers could originate out of these media use behaviors. For example, if I am a person who actively uses the media to seek out information about the goings-on within the U.S. Democratic Party, I might have a series of blogs that I read and comment upon, and have determined to be reliable over time, to get the information I want. As a self-appointed critical consumer of media information, I might be well aware that the series of blogs I am reading all cater to the leanings of the Democratic Party, but I might be completely ok with that because I am comfortable reading information produced by sources that are synchronous with my own beliefs. Thus, I am perpetuating that particular echo chamber with my participation and doing so not because I feel uncomfortable seeking out information and participating in a different environment, but because I like the biased one I’ve chosen.

    I think many media consumers participate in this kind of activity – actively seeking out echo chamber-like environments of their preferred ideas, and sticking only to those even when they realize they are consuming only biased information. Thus, social media in this context would serve more as a satisfier for members of all groups (i.e., majority and minority) by providing an environment in which all individuals can feel comfortable expressing their opinions, largely due to the fact that echo chambers can isolate individuals from dissenting ideas while at the same time bolstering those individuals’ beliefs. There are, of course, certain consequences to this isolationist-type of thinking (i.e., a lack of consideration for “the other side of the story”) (Parramore, 2010), but perhaps we should then consider whether individuals believe it is more important to consider “both sides” or to simply reinforce the side they’ve already taken.

    References

    Katz, E., Blumler, J. G., & Gurevitch ,M. (1974). Uses and gratifications research. Public Opinion Quarterly, 37(4), 509-524.

    Parramore, L. (2010). Eli Pariser on the Future of the Internet. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2010/10/08/lynn_parramore_eli_pariser/.

    Reply
    • November 5, 2012 at 9:44 am
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      Wonderful suggestions for extending the theoretical perspective offered by the readings and for intersecting them with the older literature. I can even see a seed for a possible paper here…

      Reply
  • November 5, 2012 at 3:43 am
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    It can be concluded from Elisabeth Noelle-Neuman’s article “The Spiral of Silence:
    A Theory of Public Opinion” (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.lib.purdue.edu/doi/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1974.tb00367.x/pdf) that there are several basic assumptions that exist with regards to this idea of a spiral of silence. First and foremost, in order for this phenomenon to occur, one must assume that individuals are aware of what basic opinions exist and then also how these opinions may compliment or vary from their own. For example, consider the atmosphere of Purdue’s campus during the 2008 presidential race. From basic observation around Purdue’s campus, both visual and through media consumption, one would probably have been led to believe that a majority of the student population supported Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Based off of this observation, one would then be able to determine how these views compared to their own views. After this realization had been made, another basic assumption of the “Spiral of Silence” theory came into play. This assumption is that people fear isolation when their opinions vary from the majority. As a result, many students that may have supported McCain were far less likely to advertise their beliefs at the risk of being socially outcast, knowing that this may occur if they were to be outspoken about their variance from the norm. In contrast to this silence coming from one side of the issue, those that supported Barack Obama, the majority opinion, probably felt more comfortable sharing their stance on the subject because they had less risk of experiencing social isolation for their beliefs. Noelle-Neuman goes on to explain in her article how this occurrence can lead to actual support for a majority view being overestimated, meaning that while there may have been a gap in support, there was no way of knowing how large this actual gap was until poll results came in.
    It is important to consider how this theory may interact with the agenda setting affects of mass media. As discussed during previous learning modules, while the media may not have total ability to sway public opinion, it does have the ability to tell the public what to think about (http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/teaching/PLSC541_Fall06/McCombs%20and%20Shaw%20POQ%201972.pdf). If the majority public opinion supports Barack Obama and his ideals, it is far more likely that he will be talked about more in the media stemming from this idea that support of minority opinions tend to be less present in the public eye. This power that mass media holds leads to even further amplification of an already popular stance on a situation, making it even harder for those with conflicting ideas to feel comfortable and confident enough to speak their own mind in a public forum.
    The way mass media tends to produce more content focusing on the majority opinion factors into the creation of an echo chamber. A good example of an echo chamber can be seen through the strong homophilic nature of Twitter. An article I found relevant to this idea that was not featured in this learning module is titled “Affecting news and networked publics: The rhythms of news storytelling on #Egypt” and is written by Papacharissi and Oliveira (Papacharissi & Oliveira, 2012). They talk about how Twitter was used during Arab Spring, at one point focusing on the way that this social media tool inherently buries minority opinions. Because crowd sourcing controls what gets retweeted the most, thus seen by the most eyes, it is extremely difficult to get viewpoints varying from the majority opinion out to larger portions of the Twitter population. The speed at which news is produced and reproduced on this platform causes this homophily effect to grow very rapidly to the point where almost instantly a strong majority opinion quickly becomes the only apparent opinion. As media becomes more instantaneous and even more integrated into daily life, it will become even more difficult for minority opinions to be spread and more difficult for minority opinion holders to separate themselves from this inherent fear of isolation.

    Papacharissi, Z., & Oliveira, M. F. (2012). Affecting news and networked publics: The rhythms of news storytelling on #Egypt. Journal of Communication, 62(2), 266-282. DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01630.x

    Reply
    • November 5, 2012 at 10:33 am
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      Excellent summary and extension of theory. One comment that I would make, though, is that Spiral of Silence Theory considers an even more insidious phenomenon, that by which vocal minority opinions give the impression of being or about to become majority, which leads people to believe that they are the “winning” party. This has a very important role to play in spiral of silence phenomena. Right?

      Reply
  • November 5, 2012 at 10:06 am
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    The readings for today was very interesting in regards to how the Internet and the emergence of personalized content can be said to both afford a spiral of silence and function as echo chambers (Noelle-Neumann, 1974; Gilbert, Bergstorm & Karahalios, 2009). The spiral of silence theory describes a process where the public sphere becomes dominated by certain opinions because individuals that hold a perceived minority opinion do not speak up in fear of social isolation. In this process a spiral of silence is created, as individuals who perceive themselves as in the minority “will feel pressure either to express the majority opinion or to remain silent” (Glynn, Hayes & Shanahan, 1997: p. 452) thus leading to a perceived expansion or growth of the dominant view as opposing opinions slowly diminish.

    This understanding of opinion formation is interesting when linked with Sunstein (2007) and Pariser’s (2011) understanding of the Internet and the development of personalized content trough ‘filter bobbles’. The emergence of the Internet as a communication medium has changed the way in which we consume information by having a large number of niches. These niches create a fragmentation in society as individuals have less shared and common experience (Sunstein, 2007). This is in turn reinforced by the ‘filter bobble’ where users of the Internet are directed into well-known niches (or echo chambers) where the content and discussions holds similar views to those of the users (Pariser, 2011; Sunstein, 2007).

    If we combine these two theoretical threads there is an interesting insight to be had in regards to the polarization of society as described by Sunstein (2007). I argue that because users of the Internet and social media are reinforced in their views by the filter bobble, the spiral of silence is slowly eroded. The reason I argue this is because, as individuals perceive their opinions as more dominant (the Internet environment give cues that reinforces their views) they are more likely to engage in dialog and express their opinion (Glynn et al, 1997). This would suggest that Sunstein and Pariser’s understanding of the filter bobble as creating fragmentation in society is only part of its effects. The filter bobbles can afford dialog by directing Internet users to echo chambers where their opinions are reinforced. This leads to some interesting research questions in regards to how filter bobbles can afford dialog, both negative and positive, in echo chambers and in other environments.

    Works Cited
    Gilbert, E., Bergstorm, T., & Karahalios, K. (2009). Blogs Are Echo Chambers: Blogs Are Echo Chambers. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2011, from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.211.8065&rep=rep1&type=pdf

    Glynn, C. J., Hayes, A. F., & Shanahan, J. (1997). Perceived Support for One’s Opinions and Willingness to Speak Out: A Meta-Analysis of Survey Studies on the “Spiral of Silence”. The Public Opinion Quarterly , 452-463.

    Noelle-Neumann, E. (1973). Spiral of Silence – A theory of public opinion. Journal of Communication , 24 (2), 43-51.

    Pariser, E. (2011). The Filter Bobble. New York: The Penguin Press.

    Sunstein, C. (2007, Oct 4). The Daily Me. Retrieved Sep. 7, 2012, from The Republic 2.0: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8468.html

    Reply
  • November 5, 2012 at 11:41 am
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    Spiral of silence theory is very interesting because it taps into the kind of motivations for human thinking that we can see most glaringly in middle school children: fear of isolation, front-running, and a irresistible need to fit in. Though I understand the theory causes trepidation because it would appear to be a somewhat frightening model of how public opinion formation works, I think it actually gives us a very accurate and somewhat optimistic view if properly qualified.

    By properly qualified I mean that I think the theory is not quite a complete picture of what occurs in public opinion formation. Noelle-Neumann’s spiral of silence piece indicates that there is some other factors playing into the formation of public opinion that the theory does not account for. In attempting to explain individuals that do not conform as predicted by the theory, she writes, “Some members of this group may get accustomed to isolation, and many of them may manage to support their opinions by selecting out persons and media which confirm their views.” (49). The existence of such individuals suggests that there need to be some qualifications of the theory. I’m not sure what those qualifications might be, but I do think there may be room there for more flattering account of how individuals participate in the formation of public opinion. Later, the author suggests, “This kind of analysis can be applied to forecasts of political opinions, fashion trends, or the development of social conventions and customs- that is, to all spheres in which the attitude and behavior of the individual is governed by the link between his own convictions and the results of his observation of the social environment. In my opinion, this interaction is the principal feature of the process of public opinion formation.” (50). The idea that the observed interaction is “principal feature” implies that there are author features for which we need to account. Further, Glynn et al’s meta-analysis confirms that we need to significantly add to spiral of silence to fully describe public opinion formation.

    Beyond the need to add to spiral of silence giving us room for optimism about formation of public opinion, the phenomenon described by the theory itself may be a more positive one than it appears at first glance. Noelle-Neumann argues in the case of any difference between the perceived strength of a view in the present or future, the perceived strength of the view in the future will determine the willingness to express the view, “This ensues from the assumption that the cause of the differing degrees of willingness is the individual’s fear of isolation and of his self- confidence being shaken if his own view is not confirmed by the majority opinion or by the trend of opinion.” (45) Though this idea leads to language used to describe us such as “lemmings” I think it is also important to note that this model of public opinion formation would seem to temper extremist thinking in many cases. This is beneficial because although thinking different may in some cases lead to innovation, more often than not extremist thinking is exactly that: extreme. In civilizations that consider themselves advanced and at least somewhat enlightened, it may be a good thing that people do not feel confident expressing regressive, extreme, or even violent views. Although this model by no means precludes the possibility of extremist thinking, indeed it even suggests that such thinking can gain momentum rather quickly, it does seem to discourage it, which may not be so bad after all.

    References
    Glynn, C. J., Hayes, A. F., & Shanahan, J. (1997). Perceived Support for One’s Opinions and Willingness to Speak Out: A Meta-Analysis of Survey Studies on the “Spiral of Silence”. The Public Opinion Quarterly , 452-463.

    Noelle-Neumann, E. (1973). Spiral of Silence – A theory of public opinion. Journal of Communication , 24 (2), 43-51.

    Reply
    • November 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm
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      A. Great Post

      B. Doesn’t your main argument allude to the Echo Chamber, especially where you cite NN (p. 49)?

      C. Can you explain what you mean by “author features”? “The idea that the observed interaction is “principal feature” implies that there are author features for which we need to account. ”

      D. Also, doesn’t the idea of orientation due to “future” states remind you of Bandura?

      Reply
  • November 5, 2012 at 10:15 pm
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    In her study, Noelle-Neumann states 5 different hypotheses concerning public opinion and how people would respond in accordance to public opinion. In particular, hypothesis 2 interests me, that “willingness to expose one’s views varies” according to his assessment of the acceptance of such a view.

    On reading this, a few things immediately jump to mind.
    1) the idea that social media and the Internet provide a platform for “minority” views to be shared and heard
    2) But even though we have such platforms, we are in great danger of sharing within a filter bubble, especially due to the way the top social platforms work

    With regards to the first point, one of the key affordances that comes with the Internet is the ability to remain anonymous, or completely portray a different personality. The anonymity gives those with minority views a chance to share their ideas, without fear of repercussions of isolation in real life.

    In addition, the lines between the public and private sphere are getting increasingly blurred. With the ubiquity of smartphones and wireless access, and applications such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you can share your life and views almost instantaneously and similarly gain feedback almost immediately. With this ease of sharing, we find that people are also increasingly willing to share almost everything in their lives, from banal things like pictures of what they are having for lunch, to heated discussions about politics on Facebook. Perhaps part of the reason people are so willing to share is also the false sense of security that being in a “closed” social network (like locked Facebook and Twitter accounts) bring, that although it still seems “private”, their lives are actually very much in the public sphere.

    This leads into the second point of the Echo Chamber or the filter bubble. Most social media work with networks of friends – people that you probably have at least a passing acquaintance to. While these people may share their views openly, contrarian or not, on their chosen social networks, some platforms have algorithms that seem to provide you with the things that they think you want to see. Facebook in particular is a prime offender – the algorithm picks up on the statuses that you click on, or the people you interact with, and it adjusts your feed such that you see more updates from these people and pages. As people tend to interact with people who think similarly, it results in something like a group-think phenomenon – or the Echo Chamber via what Eli Parisier calls the ‘filter bubble’.

    Bakshy, Rosenn, Marlow and Adamic (2010) do seem to confirm this idea in a study on Facebook that argues we gain diverse information from our acquaintances or ‘weak ties’. However, they also comment that in spite of such diverse information, we are more likely to share links from our close friends than our acquaintances. Ultimately, we are still reinforcing our own thoughts with what our closer friends/”strong ties” think, by sharing and “liking” what our strong ties are producing on our feed, thus contributing towards the Echo Chamber.

    Reply
    • November 8, 2012 at 10:10 am
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      Nice connection to the Facebook study, but as far as I remember it, it was much more positive re: Facebook ability to bring us together with people that are dissimilar to us. I am at the same time, not sure how, in your view, spiral of silence connects to echo chambers. The connection is not very clear. Can you clarify?

      Reply
  • November 13, 2013 at 10:19 pm
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    Along with the social capital and digital divide/knowledge gap units, this has been my next favorite unit in the course. I guess the reason I like them so much is that they are, to me, theories of power that try to look beyond the technologies of social media by looking at some of the underlying social forces at work. On the whole, this week I found the spiral of silence theory papers less interesting than the echo chamber theory papers (I would group the filter bubble theory paper in with the echo chamber ones since it is also related to a type of repetition (i.e. of personal preferences, likes, etc.), one that is similar to the idea of constant iterations of our own opinions and likes forced back onto us.

    “The Spiral of Silence” (1974), while surely a canonical piece (and it is important to remember how early it was produced), was interesting to me but not particularly deep. Perhaps part of the reason I felt this was that the thesis and results seemed so obvious right from the get-go, however obviously it is important to have tested the hypothesis and proved them in the first place. I like how Noelle-Neumann states the theory in the following pithy sentence: “To the individual, not isolating himself is more important than his own judgment” (p. 43). However, I found it somewhat surprising when she then states that she assumes “that this fear of isolating oneself […] is an integral part of all processes of public opinion” (ibid). In this second sentence I find her definition of public opinion somewhat problematic. She states that, based on the theory of the spiral of silence, public opinion is “the opinion which can be voiced in public without fear of sanctions and upon which action in public can be based” (p. 44). I do not find these last two statements necessarily true. Public opinion, to me, can include dissenting voices, and it always necessarily does, since they are what shape public opinion “over the course” if things (we see this all the time, the current public opinion of dissent in Toronto at the mayoralty being only one example). I understand that what she means is that generally speaking people will err on the side of silence when given a choice, but a second way I disagree with her is that I can imagine that there are some instances where people are not given the pleasure of getting to make that choice. For example, individuals in economic dire straits may not find it so easy to silence themselves, and I imagine the same is true in the context of certain religious and political disagreements. The phenomenon of online “trolling” is another specific example, where the point is precisely to disagree with the popular public opinion in order to illicit the wrath of their response. So, I would add that her theory is a theory of perhaps “everyday” or “common” communication, and that this might not necessarily be true in the form of the “public” in a broad sense.

    The meta-analysis that we read that furthered the study of the spiral of silence theory (1997) answered a few more questions by providing evidence of “a very small, but statistically significant, relationship between the degree to which a person believes others hold similar opinions and the willingness to express those opinions” (p. 452). It also found that “moderator analysis did not reveal significant moderators of this relationship” (ibid). I do not think this counters my claims above, but it does clear up the original thesis made by Noelle-Neumann, reinforcing it.

    I instead preferred the pieces on echo chamber theory. My personal favorite was the piece on blogs as echo chambers (2009). Their finding, that “agreement outnumbers disagreement in blog comments by more than 3 to 1” was fascinating and helpful to understand the way “democracy” might work in online environments. Particularly striking was the method developed in the study, and the construction of algorithmic tools to measure the quality of the posts. I think that their suggestion of instituting a list of “democratic” blogs (blogs that show the highest level of disagreement) is fascinating and worthy of more research. Lastly, the Lynn Parramore interview with Eli Pariser was interesting, particularly the concept of the filter bubble, which in a way is another type of echo chamber. The most astute observation I felt was that “every human-made system has a sense of values” (Parramore, 2010). The idea is that algorithms are not simply objective info providers and are instead highly specialized and political in nature. “Net neutrality” is something we should certainly aspire too but it is unfortunately a myth if we say that it exists currently (Evgeny Morozov is one combatant in this arena). Tim Wu’s book The Master Switch is referred to in that it showed this exact process taking place in many other media environments aside from the internet, including television and radio. The main idea is that neutrality gives way to non-neutrality, and the echo chamber can, in my opinion, be seen as a consequence of this. The big info companies think they know who we are and manipulate algorithms which distort information and corrode net neutrality. Morozov is correct in criticizing the notion of net neutrality however I would temper his bitterness by saying that it is something to which we should always aspire.

    Gilbert, E., Bergstorm, T., & Karahalios, K. (2009). “Blogs Are Echo Chambers: Blogs Are Echo Chambers.” Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences: citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.211.8065&rep=rep1&type=pdf

    Glynn, C. J., Hayes, A. F., & Shanahan, J. (1997). “Perceived Support for One’s Opinions and Willingness to Speak Out: A Meta-Analysis of Survey Studies on the “Spiral of Silence”.” The Public Opinion Quarterly, 452-463.

    Noelle-Neumann, E. (1973). “Spiral of Silence – A theory of public opinion.” Journal of Communication, 24 (2), 43-51.

    Parramore, Lynn. (2010). “Eli Pariser on the future of the Internet.” Salon.com: http://www.salon.com/2010/10/08/lynn_parramore_eli_pariser/

    Reply
  • November 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm
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    Applying the ideas of the spiral of silence and echo chambers to social networking is intriguing. As defined in our readings for this week, the spiral of silence refers to the process of creating and spreading common public opinion. The majority establishes their view on a given issue or topic, and this position is seen as “right” because a large number of people agree (or seem to agree) with the ideas presented. Those who hold minority opinions feel pressured to either not express their own ideas or to agree with the presented public opinion; these behavioral options are viewed as more attractive and personally beneficial than the social isolation that may result from expressing minority opinions (Glynn, Hayes, & Shanahan, 1997; Noelle-Neumann, 1974). As this process continues, minority opinion holders become less likely to voice their opinions, which strengthens the position of the presented public opinion, and further silences the minority opinion holders. As a complementary idea, echo chambers are discussion spaces where no dissenting opinions are presented. Here, an idea is presented, and discussion participants voice their agreement with the original idea. This pattern of behavior serves to reinforce these ideas, and create communities that are increasingly homogenous in their ideas and beliefs (Gilbert, Bergstrom, & Karahalios).

    Based on my personal experience with social networking sites, it seems that these sites have the potential to create a spiral of silence or foster echo chambers; this results, however, is not guaranteed. Let’s consider Facebook as an example for this discussion. As we have seen from various readings this semester, the social network that Facebook users tend to interact with the most on Facebook is fairly homogenous; these are usually the individuals that users have close personal relationships with offline, such as family and friends. These groups tend to have similar worldviews and opinions about issues, creating a space in which a single opinion would be created and perpetuated. This small sub-set, however, makes up only a small portion of a given user’s social network on Facebook; while the user may be exposed to homogenous information and content from their friends and family, the information shared by other members of the social network is likely to introduce more diverse information. As discussed by Bakshy (2012), a given user interacts with more content posted on Facebook by “weak ties,” or individuals with whom the user does not have a close relationship; because a given user has far more weak ties than strong ties, these network members present more information overall. So, if an individual user interacts only with their friends and family on Facebook, ignoring information posted by other members of their friends list, the user will most likely be exposed to homogenous ideas; if, on the other hand, the user interacts with more data overall on Facebook, the information will be more heterogeneous (Bakshy, 2012).

    With online spaces based around common interests and discussion topics becoming more popular every day, there is certainly a potential for the creation of echo chambers. Common interests and common opinions draw these participants together; a lack of dissent from the originally posted ideas seems logical (Gilbert, Bergstrom, & Karahalios). The increasing ability to personalize one’s internet experience also encourages the creation of echo chambers. If a user sets up a personalized homepage that only displays stories they are interested in and information they already agree with, then it becomes more difficult for that individual to be exposed to dissenting ideas (Sunstein, 2007). These echo chambers are not necessarily negative. In my experience, individuals who participate in one forum board usually participate in others; in this case, the individuals are active members of multiple echo chambers. Though each individual location reflects back and supports the original ideas presented, the wide variety of potential topics can result in well-informed users. Personalized news pages don’t have to focus just on information that the user already agrees with; rather, users could set up their filters to only include certain topics – but present both (or all) sides of the given issue or debate.

    Overall, it is not the social network sites themselves that create spirals or silence or echo chambers – it is how users engage with the technologies. Even when these ideas are realized, such as echo chambers being created on blogs and forum boards, effort from the user to participate in multiple echo chambers can expose the individual to different ideas.

    References

    Bakshy, E. (2012). Rethinking information diversity in networks. Facebook Data Science.

    Gilbert, E., Bergstrom, T., & Karahalios, K. (n.d.) Blogs are echo chambers: Blogs are echo
    chambers. 1-10.

    Glynn, C. J., Hayes, A. F, Shanahan, J. (1997). Perceived support for one’s opinion and
    willingness to speak out: A meta-analysis of survey studies on the ‘spiral of silence.’ The
    Public pinion Quarterly, 61(3), 452-463.

    Noelle-Neumann, E. (1974). The spiral of silence: A theory of public opinion. Journal of
    Communication, 43-51.

    Sunstein, C. R. (2007). The daily me. Republic.com 2.0. Princeton University Press.

    Reply
  • November 9, 2014 at 10:37 pm
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    The readings for these two weeks on Knowledge Gap and the Spiral of Silence and Echo Chamber effects are really helpful in sending out alerting signals that the halo surrounding the Internet should be quenched. Personally, the messages from the readings offer me a great chance to pause for a second and reflect on how the Internet is working in my life. It is shockingly pleasant to process all these new perspectives and approach the Internet from a brand new perspective. With this pleasure, it is much easier to understand why Sunstein (2007) is arguing in his book that “people should be exposed to materials that they would not have chosen in advance” (p.5). The seemingly “contradictory” views serve as guardians to protect one from becoming extremists and help one learn more about the reality outside the limited world of one’s own.

    The Spiral of Silence proposed by Neumann (1974) has studied the psychology underlying the formation of public opinion. Neumann has discussed individual’s fear of being isolated from the majority public that “to the individual, not isolating himself is more important than his own judgment” (1974, p.43). This fear of isolation is also associated with one’s desire to express his/her own opinions that the more likely the idea conforms to the dominant opinions, the more likely one would speak up about their own ideas. To understand this phenomenon on the platform of blogs, Gilbert, Bergstrom and Karahalios (2009) have examined the agree-disagree-neither situations on blogs and found that “the agreement overwhelmingly outnumbers disagreement when commenters take a position on blogger’s post” (p.9). From this, it seems reasonable to conclude that social media is a Spiral of Silence machine. However, it is interesting to pursue the question of why people still demonstrate the Spiral of Silence in an online environment. In the concrete world, Neumann (1974) pointed to people’s fear of isolation. Is it still the same fear of isolation keeping people away from showing disagreement? In the online environment, the public are able to hide themselves behind the different identities they create for themselves, which seems to reject the possibility of fearing isolation. In this sense, it would be interesting to see how the Spiral of Silence is different in online and offline environments and what motivates the Spiral of Silence if it exists in both the two environments.

    The Echo Chamber effects offer another perspective to investigate how the seemingly better technologies are actually restricting ourselves. The “filter bubble” explored by Eli Pariser discusses how the more and more advanced customization and personalization features are crippling the ability of the Internet to connect us all together (Parramore, 2010). We filter all “unnecessary” and “unwanted” stuff and what is kept at last is pure ourselves. The Knowledge Gap theory from last week can also lend support to the separation of us from the outside world in the social media context. The customization speeds up the widening of knowledge gap among groups of people because interested people will keep growing their knowledge while uninterested people have no access to the information since all possibilities to access the information have been filtered out by all the customization and personalization features. Upon consideration of this knowledge gap and filter bubble, people are probably a lot more disconnected from each other than they perceive themselves to be.

    References

    Gilbert, E., Bergstrom, T., & Karahalios, K. (2009). Blogs are echo chambers: Blogs are echo chambers. In System Sciences, 2009. HICSS’09. 42nd Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 1-10). IEEE.

    Neumann, E. N. (1974). The Spiral of Silence A Theory of Public Opinion. Journal of Communication, 24(2), 43-51

    Parramore, L. (2010). Eli Pariser on the Future of the Internet. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2010/10/08/lynn_parramore_eli_pariser/

    Sunstein, C. R. (2007). Republic.com 2.0. Princeton University Press.

    Reply
  • November 10, 2014 at 2:37 am
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    Is Social Media a Spiral of Silence Machine?

    I think in this day and age, a spiral of silence as defined by Noelle-Neumann (1974) may indeed exist for certain types of media, people, or even parts of the world; but, I don’t think the spiral is an accurate characterization of the broad range of available social media.

    As Katz, Haas, and Gurevitch (1973) posited, people have a central need to connect, and to belong to a larger whole, which can be in part fulfilled by using different forms of social media. Noelle-Neumann seems to agree with this need to connect, but extends it to fitting in, most notably fitting (your opinion) in with public opinion. She states, “to the individual, not isolating himself is more important than his own judgment” (p. 43); suggesting that a person will not share or even stick to his/her original opinion if it is not comparable to the majority of others. I guess this could still happen, but I just don’t see it happening on a large scale as she suggested in the 1970s.

    Today, multiple forms of social media allow individuals to share their differing opinions on a variety of topics – while still belonging to social network of connected friends and acquaintances. I would argue that social media allows for more groups (and perhaps more minorities) than one majority as Noelle-Neumann suggested; and social media does not allow the majority to stay silent (p. 46) as Noelle-Neumann found in her study. No matter the view on a topic of choice, social media and the Internet give voice to individuals’ differing opinions.

    While I think spirals of silence may be a dying breed in modern-day mass communication, a new, similar phenomenon – echo chambers – are abounding in social media. In a way, echo chambers could be described as an evolution of spirals of silence – they allow individuals to belong to groups that share only their same opinion – isolating them from others with differing opinions (Gilbert, Bergstrom, & Karahalios, 2009). The Internet and social media have increasingly allowed users to do this; by adding layers of customization and personalization to an individual’s experience, individuals do not have to see or think about opinions different from their own if they choose not to.

    But too much of a good thing, (in this case personalization) may lead to so many differing groups as to make our democratic society ineffectual. As Sunstein (2007) warns, this hyper-personalization may fragment our society to the point of where differing opinions are no longer valued, and individuals only seek to hear the echoes of their own thoughts. Thus creating “a feedback loop that’s invisible” (Parramore, 2010, p. 2) – and is fed by the thoughts we share online and through our social networks – a chilling thought indeed when you consider that our online presence(s) may only represent one piece of our individuality at a time (Turkle, 1996). How are we to think independently, or even have a change in our opinions if all we hear is the same opinion, echoing back in our connected networks?

    References:

    Gilbert, E., Bergstrom, T., & Karahalios, K. (2009). Blogs are echo chambers: Blogs are echo chambers. In System Sciences, 2009. HICSS’09. 42nd Hawaii International Conference on, p. 1-10.

    Katz, E., Haas, H., & Gurevitch, M. (1973). On the use of the mass media for important things. American sociological review, 164-181.

    Noelle‐Neumann, E. (1974). The spiral of silence a theory of public opinion. Journal of communication, 24(2), 43-51.

    Parramore, Lynn. (2010). Eli Pariser on the future of the Internet. In Salon. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2010/10/08/lynn_parramore_eli_pariser/.

    Sunstein, C. R. (2007). The daily me. In Republic.com 2.0. Princeton University Press. Retrieved from http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8468.html.

    Turkle, S. (1996). Who am we? In Life on the Screen. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.01/turkle.html

    Reply
    • November 11, 2014 at 8:26 am
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      Hah… Finally, the filter bubble is a good think… As for the presence of SoS in everyday life… When was the last time we went with the opinion of a vocal minority, despite the fact that we felt we were in the majority?

      Reply
  • November 10, 2014 at 9:39 am
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    This chapter was very interesting to me, having worked in the professional world, and with a population as challenging as inmates. The Spiral of Silence Theory is very prevalent within the population of prison inmates and career criminals. The Spiral of Silence states that, an opinion can become dominate due to the lack of willingness of minority opinion holders to speak up. This unwillingness to make their opinion heard within the perceived social group, can be due to fear of reprisals or isolation, by opinion leaders and other social group members for expressing a differing or unfavorable opinion (Noelle-Neuman, 1973). For example, in the early 1990’s, the term “Stop Snitching” began to gain traction. While snitching has always been viewed as an affront to loyalty within the criminal subculture, the campaign picked up momentum and soon there was a “stop snitch” clothing line being sold. This belief that loyalty reigns supreme in the criminal subculture, was perpetrated by a majority of criminal gang leaders continually, reminding group members of the consequences of snitching. While many members, involved in non-day to day criminal activities, were being arrested for minor crimes and LEO pushing them for information about the larger criminal enterprise, they were not intimately involved in the gang and felt violent crimes against innocent victims was immoral. The punishment for snitching is harsh and can include death, so much of the time it was very hard to obtain intelligence through “rolling an informant”. While I realize that this example is more to the extreme than what the article is looking at it was very interesting to be able to use it in real life context that I am familiar with.

    The Filter Bubble is defined as “when a user of the internet is given search results based on his/her browsing history, likes/dislikes, and location and the results mimic the user’s personal preferences and viewpoints. This type of search can remove the user from differing opinions and only help solidify strongly held beliefs within the informational bubble he/she has created (Pariser, 2010). I fell that this is becoming more and more prevalent in today society. Google tracks all search histories and will provide suggestions based on likes and dislikes. An example in the reading was the BP Oil search. One user received page suggestions on stock tips and another user received page suggestions on the 2010 gulf oil spill. These results were retrieved based on user preferences and while looking further into the page suggestions list list would have yielded a more diverse topic list, uses and gratification would suggest that the need for quick results and knowing what we want and like to see, might seem to prevent the user from looking further than necessary to find the appropriate answers.

    In my humble opinion, Spiral of Silence and Filter Bubble work together very well. If one starts with Filter Bubble and how that can help determine ones opinions and views, it becomes clearer that continued reinforcement of a user’s beliefs, with little to no attention given to differing opinions, can lead to a sort of “true believer” mentality. Now, if the individual users participate in social groups or activities, they are more likely to become opinion leaders as they gain status in those groups and can influence other member’s opinions and soon the group has a majority of its members believing in a particular viewpoint. Dissenting (minority belief) members are likely to be inhibited from expressing their now unpopular opinions due to fear of retribution or ridicule. For instance, you don’t want to be the only liberal host on Fox News Channel.

    Parramore, Lynn. (2010). “Eli Pariser on the future of the Internet.” Salon.com: http://www.salon.com/2010/10/08/lynn_parramore_eli_pariser/

    Noelle-Neumann, E. (1973). “Spiral of Silence – A theory of public opinion.” Journal of Communication, 24 (2), 43-51.

    Reply
    • November 11, 2014 at 8:20 am
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      The “stop snitching” is indeed a great example of how SoS works, but in the opposite direction of what intuitive understanding supposes. It is not that the majority smothers the minority, but viceversa, and this is what SoS was meant to explain… Also, the filter bubble might be the salvation, not the cause of SoS…

      Reply
  • November 10, 2014 at 9:49 am
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    Spiral of silence theory states that our need to belong and be accepted by others exceeds our need to express our own opinions or free will (Noelle-Neumann, 2006). Past research examining conformity pressures has produces results consistent with the spiral of silence theory. For example, Asch’s (1956) experiment looked at individual’s unwillingness to pick the obviously correct line length in the face of dissenting (but obviously incorrect) opinions. Many individuals were willing to provide the incorrect answer merely to be in compliment with the mainstream answer, to be accepted by the majority.
    With the advent of social media, how does spiral of silence theory come into play? While many claim that social media supports Spiral of Silence effect, I counter argue that social media, instead, gives users power and voice to express themselves counter to the popular opinion. This power comes from the level of anonymity, unheard of in previous generations, that the internet provides its users. This anonymity gives individuals the self-confidence to express their true opinions and feelings because of the awareness that the user will never suffer the consequences resulting from their words (Popham, 1993). An example of the anonymity-honesty connection is cyberbullying, where internet anonymity provides the avenue to express hate and malicious views at the expense of other individuals. Many would never have the courage to say such things face-to-face. However, given that the recipient may be miles or continents away and the fact that the two will (most likely) never meet in real life empowers the bully to express their true thoughts with the knowledge that they will never suffer the costs resulting from their actions.
    The internet also boasts the opportunity to find others with similar beliefs, values, and tastes. No matter what weird, illegal, or socially unacceptable attitude one holds, there is always someone else who shares in the beliefs. With billions of internet users and numerous special interest sites, individuals have ample opportunity to connect with others of similar beliefs. So while an individual may go to a democrat’s board to discuss the superiority of republicans (against a sea of democratic backlash), the individual is empowered by the support and strength backing them via conversations in their own forums.
    The spiral of silence theory is extremely relevant in face-to-face group interaction settings in helping to explain and predict behavior. However, with the anonymity element present in internet and social media use, the spiral of silence may not be as influential. This is resulting from the anonymity produced self-confidence users gain to express their true thoughts and feelings without suffering the associated consequences.
    Works Cited
    Asch, S. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: I. A minority of one against a unanimous majority. American Psychological Association, 70(9), 1-70.
    Noelle-Neumann, E. (2006). The Spiral of Silence. Journal of Communication, 24(2), 43-51.
    Popham, W. J. (1993). Appraising two techniques for increasing the honesty of students’ answers to self-report assessment devices. Journal of Personnel Evalution in Education, 7(1), 33-41.

    Reply
    • November 11, 2014 at 8:28 am
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      Agree, the Internet could be an anti-spiral of silence machine… In a way… Maybe limited… But, still…

      Reply
  • November 10, 2014 at 10:55 am
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    The articles for this week have provided an interesting framework for understanding a recent media controversy known as Gamergate. It began with game developer Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend alleging she had a relationship with a video game journalist thus giving her positive reviews for her games. Quinn immediately became a victim of online harassment and anyone who spoke out in support of her was subjected to the same treatment, though women were disproportionately targeted more often.

    Elisabeth Noelle-Neuman (1974) defined public opinion as the “dominating opinion which compels compliance of attitude and behavior in that it threatens the dissenting individual with isolation” (p. 44). However, in today’s world of social media, it is often not the masses inflicting isolation but a vocal minority inflicting actual harm. The Internet has allowed them to hack dissenters’ personal information and publish it as well as deliver threats of violence and death. Glynn, Hayes, and Shanahan (1997)’s meta-analysis studied whether people think others agree with them controls willingness to express opinions. They found a weak correlation in pre-social media 1997 but it would be interesting to see what correlation they would find in today’s world.

    In volatile situations such as this, I always wonder how the transgressors can’t see the problems with how they are acting. Gilbert, Bergstrom, and Karahalios (2009) might attribute this to the echo chamber effect of blogs. They found that 77.9% of commenters with opinions shared the opinion of the blog writer. This coupled with Pariser (2010)’s “filter bubble” whereby the links that come up when we search about a topic are algorithmically engineered to be links that agree with our tastes and opinions offers some explanation. When supporters search Gamergate, the blogs that will come up are ones that also support the movement and then their opinions will be reinforced by the majority of commenters. It is no excuse but they literally cannot see what they are doing.

    References

    Gilbert, E., Bergstrom, T., & Karahalios, K. (2009) Blogs are Echo Chambers: Blogs are Echo Chambers. Paper presented at 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Big Island, HI. Doi: 10.1109/HICSS.2009.91

    Glynn, C., Hayes, A., & Shanahan, J. (1997) Perceived Support for One’s Opinions and Willingness to Speak Out: A Meta-Analysis of Survey Studies on the “Spiral of Silence”. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 61 (3), 452-463. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2749581.

    Noelle-Neuman, E. (1974) The Spiral of Silence: A Theory of Public Opinion. Journal of Communication, 24 (2), 43-51. Doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1974.tb00367.x

    Parramore, L. (Interviewer) & Pariser, E. (Interviewee). (2010). Eli Pariser on the future of the Internet [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from Salon.com: http://www.salon.com/2010/10/08/lynn_parramore_eli_pariser/.

    Reply
    • November 11, 2014 at 8:15 am
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      In fact, SoS might be the only theory that can explain gamergate as you explain it, and the filter bubble could be the only way to control Spirals of Silence… Guess why?

      Reply
  • November 10, 2014 at 11:04 am
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    Applying the spiral of silence and echo chamber theory to explain social dynamic in online communities is really insightful for media effect research in social media. The Internet is being aggregated by the emergence of numerous online communities, and online communities is being defined as personal narrative and interaction on the Internet. Kim (2000) categorized the different stages of social behavioral patterns in online communities. He stated that community members go through a life cycle and change their roles gradually: being visitors at very beginning stage, becoming participating novices, regulars, leaders, and finally as elders. Through this we can find that online behavior is dynamic and has different life stage. In the beginning of engaging online communities, most people tend to be lurkers to review other’s point, and then try to post a message or start a dialogue, and readers may respond with a commentary, and they will get positive or negative feedback to reinforce their opinion or do not speak up because of feeling isolation.
    Here is the question: What is the mechanism that people build this social dynamic and interaction within the online communities? Social networks perspective can capture the structure of direct and indirect interaction within communities, and offer social capital to individuals in the communities. The echo-chamber effect and the spiral of silence theory provide a best theoretical framework to explore this online dynamic mechanism. In an online community where participants post their opinion, if the information or opinions are reinforced by other’s commentary in this enclosed space, and different views are seen as not “approved”. Through this process, this “positive feedback loop” in online communities may make people feel some extreme opinion is true. I think there are some interesting questions of this process. What if participants in online communities find their own opinions constantly do not echo back to them, whether they will change their belief systems? Whether the spiral of silence and echo chamber effect in online communities result in polarizing effects? I think spiral of silence and echo chamber theory highlight information flows and knowledge sharing approaches to engage online community in a co-learning experience, and social dynamic in online community.

    Kim, A. J. (2000). Community building on the web: Secret strategies for successful online communities. Addison-Wesley Longman Publishing Co., Inc.

    Reply
  • November 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm
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    Out of this week’s assigned reading, I particularly liked Sunnstein’s (2007) perspective on the daily me. He presents a truly disturbing take on the future, where consumers are able to filter out information that they do not want to read, hear or see. Consequently, consumers would not come across topics, views or information that does not correlate with their pre specified wishes (Sunnstein, 2007). Sunnstein argues that this would prove for a fundamental, democratic problem, and hat such a development hinders social development. However, the increase in filtering that we already see in present day society is in part due to an information overload. There is simply too much information available to process to for the average consumers, and therefore filtering is needed.

    One is left to wonder, if this argument is in some way connected to the points made by Nicholas Carr in his 2008 article “Is Google making us stupid?”. In this article Carr describes how his use of the Internet, has limited his ability to concentrate on a particular piece of information for longer periods time. He describes how the Internet seems to be “(…) chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski” (Carr, 2008). Carr describes how his mind endlessly jumps from one piece of information to another, due to the inexhaustible amount on information available. Thus, we run the risk of turning into a society of “pancake people” with a very broad, but not deep, knowledge base.

    Could it be that the filtering many consumers employ, which Sunnstein so clearly fears, is a reaction to the effects Carr highlight? Is the filtering of information perhaps a necessity to obtain deeper knowledge when facing the information overload?

    It is an interesting problem to solve.

    References:
    Carr, N. (2008). “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic. Retrieved Nov 9th, 2014 from: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

    Sunstein, C. (2007, Oct 4). The Daily Me. Retrieved Nov 9th, 2014 from: webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8468.html

    Reply
  • November 10, 2014 at 11:57 pm
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    When I first read of the spiral of silence as an undergraduate, the idea intrigued me as it seemed to explain why I vocalize certain beliefs over others through the effect of my accordance with majority opinion. However, I also saw limitations of the theory. Mainly, it was unclear who the “majority” is. My undergraduate institution was a small Christian college where the political beliefs were fairly homogenous: we were almost all conservatives. However, during the 2008 presidential election, the majority opinion of who should be different varied based on the national majority and my collegiate majority. This example illustrates a limitation of the theory, mainly what majority opinion influences whether I express my opinion. However, social judgment theory and ecological rationality may help solve this conundrum.
    According to spiral of silence theory, social comparison trumps individual bias. Indeed, Noelle-Neumann (1974) claimed, “To the individual, not isolating himself is more important than his own judgment” (p. 43). Thus, l express my opinions if I agree with what I perceive the majority to believe, but I am less likely to express my views if I disagree with the majority as I don’t want to be judged or outcasted. While this idea sounds intriguing, Glynn, Hayes, and Shanahan (1997) found only minor support for the theory. Thus, there must be other factors that affect if I express my views beyond majority opinion.
    Social judgment theory (Hovland & Sherif, 1980) claims that we evaluate judgments not by social comparison but by judging them against current attitudes that one holds. Furthermore, the impact of new information depends on my level of ego involvement, which is how salient I view the issue. For example, I have a higher level of ego involvement with my religious views that my favorite color. Indeed, the theory would suggest that I would be more likely to express my views (regardless of the majority opinion) in issues for which I have a high level of ego involvement. Thus, the effect of majority opinion is moderated by ego involvement.
    From a different perspective, ecological rationality (Gigerenzer & Selten, 2002) would suggest that the majority depends upon the social context. Thus, the majority depends on my environment. For example, whether I express my views depends on whom I view as the majority. From the example in the introduction, I would express my views depending on who is most salient to my judgment. I would be more likely to express my support of McCain if I were to view my undergraduate institution as the majority whereas I would be less likely if I were to view the American people as the majority. From this perspective, echo chambers develop, in which the majority can change with the digital ecology (Gilbert, Bergstorm, & Karahalios, 2009).
    In summary, both social judgment theory and ecological rationality help to explain the seemingly low effects of the spiral of silence. I am more or less likely to express my opinion based on my level of ego involvement and whom I view as the majority. Further testing may evidence these as moderators of majority influence within the theory.

    Gigerenzer, G., & Selten, R. (Eds.). (2002). Bounded rationality: The adaptive toolbox. Mit Press.
    Gilbert, E., Bergstorm, T., & Karahalios, K. (2009). “Blogs Are Echo Chambers: Blogs Are Echo Chambers.” Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences: citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.211.8065&rep=rep1&type=pdf
    Glynn, C. J., Hayes, A. F., & Shanahan, J. (1997). “Perceived Support for One’s Opinions and Willingness to Speak Out: A Meta-Analysis of Survey Studies on the “Spiral of Silence”.” The Public Opinion Quarterly, 452-463.
    Hovland, C. I., Sherif, M. (1980). Social judgment: Assimilation and contrast effects in communication and attitude change. Westport: Greenwood.
    Noelle-Neumann, E. (1973). “Spiral of Silence – A theory of public opinion.” Journal of Communication, 24 (2), 43-51.

    Reply
    • November 11, 2014 at 8:00 am
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      What separates SoS from triviality is the fact that it claims that even or especially people that are in the majority can clam up when they feel they are on the losing side or when the minority relies on righteous indignation…

      Reply

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