Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

An egalitarian Internet? Not so, study finds

Date:
June 12, 2011
Source:
University of Georgia
Summary:
The Internet is often thought of as a forum that enables egalitarian communication among people from diverse backgrounds and political persuasions, but a new study reveals that online discussion groups display the same hierarchical structure as other large social groups.

The Internet is often thought of as a forum that enables egalitarian communication among people from diverse backgrounds and political persuasions, but a University of Georgia study reveals that online discussion groups display the same hierarchical structure as other large social groups.

Related Articles


"About 2 percent of those who start discussion threads attract about 50 percent of the replies," said study author Itai Himelboim, assistant professor in the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. "So although we have this wide range and diversity of sources, only a few of them are actually attracting attention."

Himelboim, whose latest findings appear in the early online edition of the journal Communication Research, examined discussions among more than 200,000 participants in 35 newsgroups over a six-year period. He focused his analysis on political and philosophical newsgroups on Usenet, the oldest Internet discussion platform, and is currently exploring patterns of communication in newer social networking services, such as Twitter.

To identify the differences, if any, that exist in the content posted by popular participants and their less popular counterparts, Himelboim and colleagues Eric Gleave and Marc A. Smith of Connected Action Consulting Group examined the content of a subset of the messages. Only 12 percent of messages from the popular posters presented their own comments and opinions; most of the time, they simply imported content from other news sources. Of the imported content, 60 percent came from traditional media, such as The New York Times, CNN and other national and local outlets, while 8 percent came from blogs and personal websites. Fifteen percent of posts used content from online-only news sites, and 6 percent of posts used content from government and nonprofit organizations.

"For the news media, these findings are pretty encouraging," Himelboim said. "We still need someone to go out and search for information to bring it to us, and that's a traditional journalistic role."

For those who fancy the Internet as a great equalizer that brings equality to the voices of the masses, however, the findings suggest that it could never meet that lofty ideal. Himelboim said he wasn't surprised to find that online discussion groups tend to become hierarchical. Even in grade school, he pointed out, everybody wants to be friends with the most popular kid.

What did surprise Himelboim was that the larger the group gets, the more skewed the network of interactions becomes. People exhibit what's called a preferential attachment toward those with many connections, which suggests that having many connections makes it easier to make more connections. Himelboim said that because people can only spend so much time communicating with others, the growth of these so-called hubs comes at the expense of their less-connected counterparts.

In a related study that randomly assigned nearly 200 participants to one of several simulated forums, Himelboim and his colleagues found that posting high-quality content is necessary for attracting attention -- but not sufficient. That is, high quality posts with few replies drew few additional replies and never became hubs.

So what does one need to do to attract attention on the Internet?

"That's the million dollar question," Himelboim said. 'But just posting a lot will not make you a hub for attracting attention."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Georgia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. I. Himelboim. Civil Society and Online Political Discourse: The Network Structure of Unrestricted Discussions. Communication Research, 2010; DOI: 10.1177/0093650210384853

Cite This Page:

University of Georgia. "An egalitarian Internet? Not so, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110610131904.htm>.
University of Georgia. (2011, June 12). An egalitarian Internet? Not so, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110610131904.htm
University of Georgia. "An egalitarian Internet? Not so, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110610131904.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Computers & Math News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Building Google Into Cars

Building Google Into Cars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Google's next Android version could become the standard that'll power your vehicle's entertainment and navigation features, Reuters has learned. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
After Sony Hack, What's Next?

After Sony Hack, What's Next?

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 19, 2014) The hacking attack on Sony Pictures has U.S. government officials weighing their response to the cyber-attack. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How 2014 Shaped The Future Of The Internet

How 2014 Shaped The Future Of The Internet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) It has been a long, busy year for Net Neutrality. The stage is set for an expected landmark FCC decision sometime in 2015. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins