More Opportunities for Future Research: Homophily on Lesser Researched Social Media Sites
This week’s blog post focuses on two articles, (Dvir-Gvirsman, 2017) and (Waddell & Sundar, 2017). Dvir-Gvirsman (2017) provides us with one perspective on Social Network Sites (SNSs) homophily versus selective exposure. Waddell and Sundar (2017) deep-dives into a specific example, how reviewing comments on social media sites can potentially cultivate homophily. Both studies utilize experimental methods, with Dvir-Gvirsman (2017) taking a mixed methods approach.
From the start, Dvir-Gvirsman (2017) defines “audience homophily,” in contrasting it with the more established, selective exposure. Over the last few years, audience identity is front and center in the wake of fake news, bots, partisan media, and content slant. When combined, these phenomena, as witnessed in the 2016 Presidential election, promote bias and sociological division. Waddell and Sundar (2017) expands on this thought by adding another outcome, the bandwagon effect.
With great appreciation for Waddelll and Sundar’s (2017) work, I’d like to propose two more opportunities for future research: (1) expanding the study’s 2x2 factorial design to account for high or low audience ratings that display a homophilic comment sample of opposing sentiment upfront; (2) test hypotheses on lesser researched social media sites, such as, Yelp; and (3) stratify viewers by age and geography.
In the case of Yelp, my hypothesis would be that the bandwagon effect activates at an equal or higher rate when businesses, as opposed to, social television or political-media sites are reviewed. In other words, does audience homophily increase, decrease, or neutralize when an overall rating does not match (in variance) the short-list of comments displayed? As mentioned, this additional test would benefit by an experimental 2x3 factorial post-test.
Like the Dvir-Gvirsman (2017) study, examining the comment affordance, without regard to usage or output, should account for age whenever possible. Are younger viewers more desensitized to comment variance because they tend to spend more time online than older persons on average? Does motivation (Uniqueness vs. Affiliation vs. Cognitive) change based on urban, suburban or rural locale? Is there a correlation between processing and age? All legitimate and outstanding questions that could produce another set of publications.
On YouTube, do users who land on a page with negative upfront comments choose to forego the video altogether? Waddell and Sundar (2017) are concerned with viewer’s perception of the content after it’s watched. Is there a sense of “Oh, I don’t belong here” or “I’ve accidentally ventured into the dark part of YouTube?” What motivates a viewer to remain on the page, watch the video, and perceive and/or publish a counter-comment? Examining the homophily of pages, classified by video content type or topic, as oppose to whole websites can potentially add depth and richness.
Revisiting Dvir-Gvirsman (2017), one must consider the possibility that some networked platforms may be designed to promote homophily. This doesn’t have to be and intentional act. Factoring the low representation of women and minorities (e.g.: African-Americans and Latinos) in the high-tech workforce, some argue that SNSs promote homophilic worldviews exerted via content creation, software development decisions, and algorithmic structures.
On a related note, I highly recommend Safiya U. Noble’s (2018) new book, “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. It was published in January 2018, and in less than a month it’s become a #1 best seller on Amazon. It focuses on search engines results overwhelming deliver negatively biased content against women of color.
Dvir-Gvirsman, S. (2017). Media audience homophily: Partisan websites, audience identity and polarization processes. New Media And Society, 19(7), 1072-1091. doi:10.1177/1461444815625945
Noble, S.U. (2018). Algorithms of oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. NYU Press.
Waddell, T., & Sundar, S. (2017). #thisshowsucks! The Overpowering Influence of Negative Social Media Comments on Television Viewers. Journal Of Broadcasting And Electronic Media, 61(2), 393-409. doi:10.1080/08838151.2017.1309414