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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Social Media and Democracy (SMAD)

Focuses on the study of user-created digital media and its political and social implications and is broadly concerned with the implications of the internet for participatory engagement and political conversation, with particular attention to social media 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 and related data science techniques, to the study of “big data.”  Faculty Leaders: Dhavan Shah and Chris Wells.

RECENT NEWS AND POSTS

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