Asking a better question

Working with audience research and survey geniuses have made me reevaluate one of my favorite, oft-asked questions: How do you get your news?

I’ve realized that there are a lot of assumptions in that question. What does “news” mean to different people — people of different ages, races, education level, socioeconomic status?

It’s not there yet but I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I think a better question might be some variations of the following:

  • How do you spend your time [online]? (On x, y, z)
  • What activities are you doing [online]? (To do x, y, z)

I think my biggest problem with “How do you get your news?” is the assumption that news is core to people’s lives. It may not be and they may not actively seek it — but they probably can’t avoid it. So, where are they bumping into “news” (and information more generally) in their day to day life?

How social media silences debate

“Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, has the effect of tamping down diversity of opinion and stifling debate about public affairs. It makes people less likely to voice opinions, particularly when they think their views differ from those of their friends … The Internet, it seems, is contributing to the polarization of America, as people surround themselves with people who think like them and hesitate to say anything different. Internet companies magnify the effect, by tweaking their algorithms to show us more content from people who are similar to us.”

I’ve been thinking about this study a lot. I think this is mostly true, though I’m not sure that government surveillance example was the best case to test “the spiral of silence.” I’d be more curious about the protests in Ferguson and race relations in the U.S. and social issues such as gay marriage, abortion, etc.

Aside from the actual study, I think the findings largely comport with the fact that social media, at least in terms of Facebook and Twitter, are actually not that great for debate in the first place (I’d argue that blogging and very, very few comment sections can be more civilized and productive) and that many people don’t feel the need to express their opinions in a pseudo-public place (versus in-person) anyway for any multitude of reasons, but most likely for employment purposes.

The researchers set out to investigate the effect of the Internet on the so-called spiral of silence, a theory that people are less likely to express their views if they believe they differ from those of their friends, family and colleagues. The Internet, many people thought, would do away with that notion because it connects more heterogeneous people and gives even minority voices a bullhorn.

Instead, the researchers found, the Internet reflects the offline world, where people have always gravitated toward like-minded friends and shied away from expressing divergent opinions.
(There is a reason for the old rule to avoid religion or politics at the dinner table.)

And in some ways, the Internet has deepened that divide. It makes it easy for people to read only news and opinions from people they agree with. In many cases, people don’t even make that choice for themselves.

(Emphasis is mine.) The in-person facet and the platforms’ algorithms are the most interesting to me than the need or willingness to express divergent opinions though. I think a lot about how people get their news THEN interact and process that information with those they know, whether it’s friends, family, or colleagues.

via New York Times / Pew Research

Its your opportunity to shuffle a warm and persistent notion. buy college paperws They are restricted professionals, who recognize how to write an essay. But we fair chamfer routine consume a near story

The rest of the world in 2012

As I’m making my way through Andrew Sullivan’s latest piece in Newsweek (which, I think, will be a nice foil piece to Jonathan Chait’s article in NYMag awhile back about liberal discontent), I wanted to stop and share this useful roundup from Foreign Policy of all of the presidential elections in 2012 including China, France, Russia, Iran, Venezeula, and Libya.

Having studied global studies and being more interested in foreign affairs than domestic, it’s been quite a change to think of everything through a domestic/national framework because of my work at National Journal. Keeping up with domestic policy and politics is excruciatingly difficult sometimes — no thanks to the sports-style, minute-by-minute plays of things in Washington — but of course it’s important and essential to understand. The bulk of my reading for the past few months have been articles and things about the US with little time left for keeping up with the rest of the world. Speaking of keeping up, my subscription to the Economist just expired! Gah.

If you need inspiration to blog/write again

Read this piece on “public thinking.”

What is that style? It’s a delicate balance. The writers give you a glimpse into their thought processes — “they both conjure a sense that the piece is almost being written as you read it. It feels like they’re just a graf or two ahead, and if you picked up the pace, you could catch them— overtake their blinking cursors. It feels slightly chaotic and totally thrilling.” Yet, Robin points out, they don’t give away too much. They’re thinking out loud, but also privately; they’re using the public part to help catalyze their internal sense-making processes. Or as Robin sums it up in a lovely koan: “Work in public. Reveal nothing.”