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Rethinking Digital Media and Political Change

What are the dangers or new opportunities of digital media? One of the major debates in relation to digital media in the United States has been whether they contribute to political polarization. I argue in a new paper (Rethinking Digital Media and Political Change) that Twitter led to Donald Trump’s rise and success to date […]

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Brexit, voting, and political turbulence

Cross-posted from the Princeton University Press blog. The authors of Political Turbulence discuss how the explosive rise, non-normal distribution and lack of organization that characterizes contemporary politics as a chaotic system, can explain why many political mobilizations of our times seem to come from nowhere. On 23rd June 2016, a majority of the British public voted in a […]

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How big data is breathing new life into the smart cities concept

“Big data” is a growing area of interest for public policy makers: for example, it was highlighted in UK Chancellor George Osborne’s recent budget speech as a major means of improving efficiency in public service delivery. While big data can apply to government at every level, the majority of innovation is currently being driven by […]

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Digital Disconnect: Parties, Pollsters and Political Analysis in #GE2015

Digital data generated during election campaigns are a valuable – but underused – source of information for political parties, pollsters and political analysts alike. They contain signals of what political parties are doing, how they are being received, and what people are thinking and talking about. The OII’s Helen Margetts and Scott Hale discuss how use of digital tools and social media by the two largest parties both, in different ways, illustrate a disconnect between the tightly controlled party campaigns, and the electorate on social media. These differences could lend a clue to why the opinion polls throughout the UK’s GE2015 campaign got it so wrong, and provide signposts for parties seeking to rebuild their relatioship with their supporters after this surprising election.

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How do the mass media affect levels of trust in government?

There is much evidence to suggest that the more complex aspects of the relationship between openness and trust in government go unaccounted for in current attempts by public sector organizations to become more open and transparent. Greg Porumbescu discusses his article Assessing the Link Between Online Mass Media and Trust in Government: Evidence From Seoul, South Korea, published in Policy & Internet (5, 4), which finds evidence of a positive indirect relationship between citizens’ use of online mass media outlets and their levels of trust in government.

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Young people are the most likely to take action to protect their privacy on social networking sites

There is a widespread impression that younger people are less concerned with privacy than older people; indeed, that “privacy is no longer a social norm”. Is this really true? OII Research Fellow Grant Blank discusses results from a representative sample from Britain to find that (contrary to conventional wisdom) young people are actually more likely to have taken action to protect their privacy than older people. A full discussion can be found in his paper (with G.Bolsover and E.Dubois): A New Privacy Paradox: Young people and privacy on social network sites.

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Mapping collective public opinion in the Russian blogosphere

Blogs are becoming increasingly important for agenda setting and formation of collective public opinion on a wide range of issues — particularly in countries like Russia where the Internet is not technically filtered, but where the traditional media is tightly controlled by the state. Olessia Koltsova, author (with Sergei Koltcov) of the Policy and Internet paper Mapping the public agenda with topic modeling: The case of the Russian livejournal discusses how topic modeling and sentiment analysis techniques can be used to monitor self-generated public opinion.

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The physics of social science: using big data for real-time predictive modelling

Use of socially generated “big data” on collective states of minds in human societies has become a new paradigm in the emerging field of computational social science, but bridging the gap between real-time monitoring and early prediction remains a challenge. Taha Yasseri discusses his paper Early Prediction of Movie Box Office Success based on Wikipedia Activity Big Data (with M.Mestyán and J.Kertész), which builds a predictive model for the financial success of movies based on the collective activity of online users, showing that a movie’s popularity can be predicted far ahead of its release date.

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Verification of crowd-sourced information: is this ‘crowd wisdom’ or machine wisdom?

Automated verification practices are becoming an important feature of crowdsourced content environments as a way of coping with the deluge of data. Heather Ford (OII) explains that while these processes can scale up contributions, it is important to understand how they can also be used to restrict the content to that deemed ‘important’ or ‘trustworthy’ enough by organisations — in a process that may be invisible to those contributing or making use of the information.

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Exploring variation in parental concerns about online safety issues

Widespread Internet adoption by youth has prompted concerns about the safety issues they face when they go online, such as being hurt by a stranger, being exposed to pornographic or violent content, and bullying or being bullied. danah boyd (Microsoft Research) and Eszter Hargittai (Northwestern) discuss their Policy and Internet paper Connected and concerned: Variation in parents’ online safety concerns, showing how parental concerns about online safety issues vary significantly by background—notably race and ethnicity, income, metropolitan status, and political ideology.

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