“I Read It on Facebook”: How Do Conversations on Social Media Escape the Agenda-Setting of News Media?

Sciences Po

Abstract

We posit the following hypothesis regarding the circulation of news in the public space. With the advent of new digital technologies, the public space has split into two distinct yet deeply intertwined social and technological spaces. On the one hand, there is the traditional media arena mostly composed of journalists and politicians, which is still the place for defining public issues and the public agenda. On the other hand, the average citizen may or may not decide to share and comment on news stories on social media. In the former model, the agenda-setting role of media was essential to the framing of public opinion. With social media, each individual can easily select his or her own source of information. In turn, his choices may influence his greater circle of friends. We present the following fundamental question: How and in what way is Facebook reshaping news that the general public is exposed to? The US elections and the English Brexit have recently demonstrated how critical the question of news and misinformation circulation is for the sake of democracy. In this project we will measure two types of audiences for every French news outlet during the recent French presidential and legislative elections. Audiences refer to both the number of visits to a media outlet’s website and shares on Facebook. The Facebook URL Shares dataset will also offer the unique opportunity to examine the properties of news stories that stimulate conversation on social media.

Research Team

Principal Investigator

Jean-Philippe Cointet

Associate Professor, médialab, Sciences Po

  • Bio ▾

    Jean-Philippe Cointet holds a position as associate professor at Sciences Po médialab and develops research in computational sociology using various methodologies (network analysis, text analysis, machine learning, etc.). He is also an associate researcher at INCITE, a research center in the Columbia University Sociology Department. Since his PhD (defended in 2009), he has been working on the modeling of online discussions and social interactions. He also has experience in designing a large-scale infrastructure project. He created the platform CorText, an open online platform for the analysis of large textual corpora in social sciences.

Participants

Dominique Cardon

Associate Professor, médialab, Sciences Po

  • Bio ▾

    Dominique Cardon is head of the Sciences Po médialab. Originally trained as a political scientist, he is now a renowned scholar in digital sociology. He has written several essays and books on the governance of Wikipedia and public expression on social networks and blogs. His work tries to articulate an analysis of the digital public space and dynamics of public expression and social interaction online. More generally, he develops and uses digital methods to tackle social science research questions about political commitment, cultural practices, and online sociability. His more recent work investigates the social and political role of algorithms and artificial intelligence in our society.

Guillaume Plique

Research Engineer, médialab, Sciences Po

  • Bio ▾

    Guillaume Plique, 27 years old, is a research engineer at médialab. He was trained as a political scientist (master’s degree) and also graduated from the HETIC engineer school. He is a proficient developer (mostly Python and JavaScript) and also leads several open-source development projects related to text analysis, network visualization, and algorithmics. Having worked for national archives and local governments, he furthermore has significant experience with data and intellectual property issues. He speaks eight languages, including Latin and ancient Greek.

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