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Wed Aug 1, 2012, 11:17 PM

Fragmentation and Cybercascades - Polarization in group discussion on the internet

Last edited Wed Aug 1, 2012, 11:47 PM - Edit history (1)


(Or let's get extreme, baybee!)

The term group polarization refers to something very simple: After deliberation people are likely to move toward a more extreme point in the direction to which the group's members were originally inclined. With respect to the Internet and new communications technologies, the implication is that groups of like-minded people, engaged in discussion with one another, will end up thinking the same thing that they thought before--but in more extreme form.

Consider some examples of the basic phenomenon, which has been found in over a dozen nations (Brown, 222).

After discussion, a group of moderately profeminist women will become more strongly profeminist (Myers, 699).
After discussion, citizens of France become more critical of the United States and its intentions with respect to economic aid (Brown, 224).
After discussion, whites predisposed to show racial prejudice offer more negative responses to the question whether white racism is responsible for conditions faced by African-Americans in American cities (Myers and Bishop, 286).
After discussion, whites predisposed not to show racial prejudice offer more positive responses to the same question (Myers and Bishop, 286).

The phenomenon of group polarization has conspicuous importance to the communications market, where groups with distinctive identities increasingly engage in within-group discussion. Effects of the kind just described should be expected with the Unorganized Militia and racial hate groups as well as with less extreme organizations of all sorts. If the public is balkanized and if different groups are designing their own preferred communications packages, the consequence will be not merely the same but still more balkanization, as group members move one another toward more extreme points in line with their initial tendencies. At the same time, different deliberating groups, each consisting of like-minded people, will be driven increasingly far apart, simply because most of their discussions are with one another.

Note in particular that even if most of us do not use the power to filter so as to wall ourselves off from other points of view, some or many people will do, and are doing, exactly that.

This is sufficient for polarization to occur, and to cause serious social risks. In general, it is precisely the people most likely to filter out opposing views who most need to hear such views. New technologies, emphatically including the Internet, make it easier for people to hear the opinions of like-minded but otherwise isolated others, and to isolate themselves from competing views. For this reason alone, they are a breeding ground for polarization, and potentially dangerous for both democracy and social peace.

There have been two main explanations for group polarization. Massive evidence now supports both these explanations.

The first explanation emphasizes the role of persuasive arguments. It is based on a simple intuition: Any individual's position on any issue is a function, at least in part, of which arguments seem convincing. If your position is going to move as a result of group discussion, it is likely to move in the direction of the most persuasive position defended within the group, taken as a whole. MORE AT LINK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Cass Sunstein

Cass Sunstein is the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago Law School and Department of Political Science. A past member of the President's Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters, he writes regularly for popular magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times Book Review, the New Republic and the American Prospect. He has also appeared on ABC Nightline, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, NBC Evening News, ABC World News Tonight, NPR Fresh Air and many other programs.

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Reply Fragmentation and Cybercascades - Polarization in group discussion on the internet (Original post)
flamingdem Aug 2012 OP
bemildred Aug 2012 #1
Uncle Joe Aug 2012 #2

Response to flamingdem (Original post)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 08:28 AM

1. Unless they don't. nt

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Response to flamingdem (Original post)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 02:42 PM

2. If one is to accept the author's premise, the First Amendment threatens democracy

freedom of speech is a danger to our democratic republic.

I believe he's mistaken, people in general have always associated with and get their information from sources they most agree on.

The Internet opens the world of ideas to the people, discussion boards and the posters making them up evolve and change, they aren't static.

Perhaps what his study portrays or perceives as radicalism is simply the breaking free of ideas and concepts from a moribund reality imposed on society by a handful of corporate mega-conglomerates controlling a narrow stream of moderated information to a society so gripped by riga mortise that our political leaders; are too afraid to confront in any meaningful way a rising global climate crisis which could threaten life as we know it.

No doubt ice would view melting water as "radical" but that change is necessary if it's to reform.

Thanks for the thread, flamingdem.

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