Berkeley Computational Social Science Forum
Date: Tuesday, November 2, 2021
Time: 4:00-5:00 PM Pacific Time
Location: Virtual Participation – Register to attend via Zoom
How Status Seeking and Social Learning Shape Political Polarization on Social Media: Evidence from a Mixed-Method Field Experiment on Twitter
Speaker: Christopher Bail, Professor of Sociology, Public Policy, and Data Science, Duke University
Abstract: Popular narratives about how social media shapes political polarization emphasize echo chambers, foreign misinformation campaigns, and algorithmic radicalization. Yet a careful review of the scientific literature indicates there is surprisingly little evidence that these factors shape political beliefs or inter-group attitudes. Drawing upon multiple field experiments, large-scale analysis of social media data, and longitudinal in-depth interviews, this talk will describe professor Bail’s new book, Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make our Platforms Less Polarizing. He will offer a new account of political polarization on social media that emphasizes the role of social identity, status-seeking, and social learning. This talk will explain how social media distorts how people understand what other people think of them, and how this prism-like effect pushes social outcasts towards extremism and mutes moderates who do not depend on social media for their sense of self-worth. Finally, professor Bail will introduce a suite of apps, bots, and other tools designed to help social media users enact research from this research to combat polarization from the bottom up designed within the Duke Polarization Lab. He will also discuss top-down solutions identified via a field experiment he conducted with his colleagues on a new social media platform for scientific research designed to discourage identity-based dynamics in political conversations online.
The Berkeley Computational Social Science Forum is an informal setting for the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and scholarship at the intersection of social science and data science. Participants engage in a variety of activities such as presentations of work in progress, discussions and critiques of recent papers, introductions to new tools and methods, discussions around ethics, fairness, inequality, and responsible conduct of research, as well as professional development. This Forum is organized as part of the Computational Social Science Training Program, and weekly meetings are hosted by researchers from BIDS and D-Lab. The group welcomes social scientists and researchers with interests in data science methods and tools, and data scientists with applications or interests in public policy, social, behavioral, and health sciences. Participants include graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty, and members are encouraged to attend regularly in order to foster community around improving computational social science research, supporting the development and research of group members, and fostering new collaborations. Interested UC Berkeley community members are invited to use this registration form to receive the schedule and access links. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or if you are interested in presenting current research for an upcoming session.
Chris Bail is Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Duke University, where he directs the Polarization Lab. A Guggenheim and Carnegie Fellow, he studies political extremism on social media using tools from the emerging field of computational social science. He is the author of Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make our Platforms Less Polarizing.