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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Social Media and Democracy (SMAD)

The Social Media and Democracy (SMAD) group focuses on the study of user-created digital media and its political and social implications. The group’s work concerns the implications of the internet for participatory engagement and political expression, with particular attention to social platforms and web news sources, the interactions among them, and their implications for societal and political action. The group applies computational social science, especially language processing, trace data analysis, and related data science techniques.  Faculty Leader: Dhavan Shah

RECENT NEWS AND POSTS

Team receives $5 million award to continue research on misinformation correction

The award will allow researchers to further develop Course Correct, a precision tool providing journalists with guidance against misinformation. MADISON, Wis. – A team of researchers that developed Course Correct, a tool to help journalists identify and combat misinformation online, will now be testing that tool in the real world, through partnerships with journalists. The tool offers precision guidance against misinformation via a flexible and dynamic dashboard which helps journalists to identify trending misinformation on social media, strategically correct false claims and test the effectiveness of corrections in real time. “Challenges of misinformation are not restricted to elections and COVID … Continue reading

New article from SMAD “Vaccine discourse during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: Topical structure and source patterns informing efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy”

In the new article “Vaccine discourse during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: Topical structure and source patterns informing efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy” in PLoS One, the Social Media and Democracy group extracted a total of 349,979 COVID-19 vaccine-related tweets from the initial period of the pandemic to investigate 1) the major topics that emerged from public conversation on Twitter concerning vaccines for COVID-19, 2) the topics that were emphasized in tweets with either positive or negative sentiment toward a COVID-19 vaccine, and 3) the type of online accounts in which tweets with either positive or negative sentiment were … Continue reading

Professor Dhavan Shah Receives ICA B. Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award

At their 72nd Annual Conference in Paris France, the International Communication Association (ICA) awarded its B. Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award to SJMC Maier-Bascom Professor Dhavan Shah. Since 1988, the B. Aubrey Fisher Award has been given to honor outstanding scholars, teachers, and advisors who serve as role models in those capacities and who have had a major impact on the field of communication. Most importantly, recipients of this award have influenced the discipline through their former students, who themselves are important figures in the communication discipline. “Shah is praised for his fairness, willingness to collaborate, unconditional support, ability to help … Continue reading

New publication “Algorithmic Agents in the Hybrid Media System: Social Bots, Selective Amplification, and Partisan News about COVID-19” from CAMER

In the new article “Algorithmic Agents in the Hybrid Media System: Social Bots, Selective Amplification, and Partisan News about COVID-19” in the journal Human Communication Research, the Computational Approaches and Message Effects Research group employed bot detection techniques, structural topic modeling, and time series analysis to characterize the temporal associations between the topics Twitter bots tend to amplify and subsequent news coverage across the partisan spectrum. Abstract: Social bots, or algorithmic agents that amplify certain viewpoints and interact with selected actors on social media, may influence online discussion, news attention, or even public opinion through coordinated action. Previous research has … Continue reading

New article from SMAD “Covering# MeToo across the News Spectrum: Political Accusation and Public Events as Drivers of Press Attention”

In the new article “Covering# MeToo across the News Spectrum: Political Accusation and Public Events as Drivers of Press Attention” in the International Journal of Press/Politics, the Social Media and Democracy Group examines how news media across the partisan spectrum covered the movement using different sexual violence language markers, latent topic, and word choices and which accusations and events drove media attention. Abstract Garnering coverage across the political spectrum is a major challenge for burgeoning social movements. The #MeToo movement stands out due to the volume of attention it generated. Yet, it is unclear how news media across the partisan … Continue reading

New Book Chapter from SMAD “Counter a reactive media system” in “Fixing American Politics”

New chapter “Counter a reactive media system” in the book Fixing American Politics from the Social Media and Democracy Group. Full Citation: Counter a reactive media system D Shah, Y Zhang, J Pevehouse, S Valenzuela Fixing American Politics, 129-136 2021 Read more: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9781003212515-20/counter-reactive-media-system-dhavan-shah-yini-zhang-jon-pevehouse-sebasti%C3%A1n-valenzuela

Alum Yini Zhang (PhD’20) wins Thomas E. Patterson Best Dissertation Award

At the American Political Science Association’s 2021 Annual Meeting, alum Yini Zhang (PhD’20) received the Thomas E. Patterson Best Dissertation Award from the Political Communication section for her dissertation “A Network Approach to Understanding Public Attention, Public Opinion and Communication Flows in the Digital Media System.” The Thomas E. Patterson Best Dissertation Award recognizes the best dissertation completed in the field of political communication in the previous year. Zhang centered her dissertation around the core question of how digital media impact the U.S. political communication landscape. “In my dissertation, I proposed a new theoretical and methodological framework to study the … Continue reading

Researchers Win Grant to Combat Misinformation About COVID and Elections

A team of researchers has received a $750,000 grant from the NSF’s Convergence Accelerator to study methods of combating misinformation online. Continue reading

UW Team Publishes “Polarization Over Vaccination: Ideological Differences in Twitter Expression About COVID-19”

New article “Polarization Over Vaccination: Ideological Differences in Twitter Expression About COVID-19 Vaccine Favorability and Specific Hesitancy Concerns” in the journal Social Media + Society from the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal. Continue reading

SMAD group publishes “Resonant Moments in Media Events: Discursive Shifts, Agenda Control, and Twitter Dynamics”

In the new article “Resonant Moments in Media Events: Discursive Shifts, Agenda Control, and Twitter Dynamics in the First Clinton-Trump Debate” in the Journal of Quantitative Description: Digital Media, the Social Media and Democracy (SMAD) group found key differences in social media discourse about the two candidates during the first 2016 U.S. presidential debate. Continue reading

SMAD group publishes “Death Across the News Spectrum: A Time Series Analysis of Partisan Coverage Following Mass Shootings in the U.S.”

In the new article “Death Across the News Spectrum: A Time Series Analysis of Partisan Coverage Following Mass Shootings in the U.S.” in the International Journal of Communication, the Social Media and Democracy (SMAD) group analyzed news coverage following mass shooting events. Continue reading

SMAD team publishes “Covering #MeToo across the News Spectrum: Political Accusation and Public Events as Drivers of Press Attention”

Furthering their research on the #MeToo movement, the Social Media and Democracy (SMAD) team has published “Covering #MeToo across the News Spectrum: Political Accusation and Public Events as Drivers of Press Attention” in The International Journal of Press/Politics. Continue reading

SMAD publishes “Performing populism: Trump’s transgressive debate style and the dynamics of Twitter response” in New Media & Society

The Social Media and Democracy (SMAD) group has a new article published in New Media & Society. The article, “Performing populism: Trump’s transgressive debate style and the dynamics of Twitter response” was published in April 2020. Continue reading

SMAD group publishes “Trump, Twitter, and news media responsiveness: A media systems approach”

The Social Media and Democracy (SMAD) group has published a new article in the journal New Media and Society, titled “Trump, Twitter, and news media responsiveness: A media systems approach”. Continue reading

SMAD Team Published on #MeToo Movement in Social Science Computer Review

Researchers in the Social Media and Democracy (SMAD) group published their paper, “#MeToo, Networked Acknowledgment, and Connective Action: How Empowerment Through Empathy Launched a Social Movement,” in Social Science Computer Review. The study, led by doctoral candidate Jiyoun Suk, focuses on how sharing #MeToo experiences on Twitter created “a network of acknowledgment” that drove “calls for action” across a range of spaces. Employing natural language processing and network analysis, the SMAD team analyzed 5-months of Twitter posts following the Weinstein accusations. The research finds that the story sharing and affirmation of “networked acknowledgment” tweets waned over time but “activism” tweets … Continue reading

SMAD Team Publishes “Whose Lives Matter?” in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

Researchers in the Social Media and Democracy (SMAD) group had their paper, “Whose Lives Matter? Mass Shootings and Social Media Discourses of Sympathy and Policy, 2012-2014,” published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, the highest ranked journal in the field of communications. The study, led by doctoral candidate Yini Zhang, focuses on the outpouring of sympathy in response to mass shootings and the subsequent contestation over gun policy on Twitter from 2012 to 2014 and relates these discourses to features of mass shooting events. The authors use two approaches to Twitter text analysis— hashtag grouping and machine learning—to triangulate an … Continue reading

SMAD Studies Trump’s Populist Debate Style and How it Shaped Twitter Response

A new study by Social Media and Democracy group researchers (link to submission) examines how Trump’s populist communication style, as manifest in his rhetorical and non-verbal approach to Presidential debates, drove reactions on social media. Using detailed verbal, tonal, and visual coding of the first U.S. presidential debate of 2016 between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to show how Trump’s transgressive style — i.e., violating normative boundaries, particularly those related to protocol and politeness, and openly displaying anger — can be operationalized from a communication standpoint and related to the “real-time” Twitter responses during the debate.  Our findings support the … Continue reading

SMAD Russian Propaganda Research Wins Awards

The manuscript, “Zero Day Twitter: How Russians Propaganda Infiltrated the U.S. Hybrid Media System” received two awards at the 2018 Association in Education and Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference this August. The paper won the top paper award for the Political Communication Interest Group and was the third-place recipient of the entire conference’s inaugural Professional Relevance award. The authors of the paper consist predominantly of graduate students in affiliation with the Social Media and Democracy and Computational Methods research groups. They are: Josephine Lukito, Jiyoun Suk, Yini Zhang, Larisa Doroshenko, Sang Jung Kim, Min-Hsin Su, YIping Xia, Deen Freelon, … Continue reading

SMAD Research Featured in Washington Post

The Social Media and Democracy group’s research on social media discourse after mass shootings was featured in the Washington Post! The report summarizes the results of the analysis of 1.3 million tweets and 700 related hashtags related to mass shootings.  SMAD researchers found that the emotional expressions that immediately followed mass shootings, typified by phrases like “thoughts and prayers,” were short lived.  In contrast, posts advocating gun control became more prevalent in the online debate, varying in intensity depending on whether the victims were women and children (more volume) or had higher proportions of African-American victims (less volume). This faded … Continue reading