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A network model of mass media opinion dynamics

Stern, Samuel; (2021) A network model of mass media opinion dynamics. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The coexistence of diverse opinions is necessary for a pluralistic society in which people can confront ideas and make informed choices. The media functions as a primary source of information, and diversity across news sources in the media forms the basis for wider discourse in the public. However, due to numerous economic and social pressures, news sources frequently co-orient their content through what is known as intermedia agenda-setting. Past research on the subject has examined relationships between individual news sources. However, to understand emergent behaviour such as opinion diversity, we cannot simply analyse individual relationships in isolation, but instead need to view the media as a complex system of many interacting entities. The aim of this thesis is to develop and empirically test a method for understanding the network effects that intermedia agenda-setting has on the diversity of expressed opinions within the media. Utilising latent signals extracted from news articles, we put forward a methodology for inferring networks that capture how agendas propagate between news sources via the opinions they express on various topics. By applying this approach to a large dataset of news articles published by globally and locally prominent news organisations, we identify how the structure of intermedia networks is indicative of the level of opinion diversity across various topics. We then develop a theoretical model of opinion dynamics in noisy domains that is motivated by the empirical observations of intermedia agenda formation. From this, we derive a general analytical expression for opinion diversity that holds for any network and depends on the network's topology through its spectral properties alone. Finally, we validate the analytical expression in a linear model against empirical data. This thesis aids our understanding of how to model emergent behaviour of the media and promote diversity.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: A network model of mass media opinion dynamics
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10133134
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