CCT Professor, Leticia Bode's Dissertation Recognized and Awarded as Best Dissertation of 2012 in Information Technology & Politics
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Communication, Culture and Technology (CCT) faculty member, Dr. Leticia Bode recently learn that her dissertation, Political Information 2.0: A Study in Political Learning Via Social Media has won the 2012 award for best dissertation in information technology & politics from the Information Technology and Politics section of the American Political Science Association.
Her dissertation answers the fundamental questions of how people gain and use political information through their everyday, pedestrian use of social media. These questions are rooted in a long history of political science research on questions of political information, political communication, and political behavior. More recently, scholars such as Prior (2007) and Sunstein (2007) have suggested social media will have a negative impact on the transmission of political information in modern American politics, as it will amplify the “echo chamber” seen in other parts of the Internet, such as the political blogosphere, and allow uninterested users to opt out of political information entirely. Bode’s dissertation challenges this theoretical speculation, reasonable though it may seem, with a more nuanced theory and empirical tests.
The key insight of the theory is that users of social media have only partial control over the information to which they are exposed – they form their own networks, but those networks are subject to social obligations, and once formed they have only moderate control over the information to which they are exposed. As a result, even those who are less politically sophisticated or less interested in politics still tend to be exposed to political information via social media.
“I find support for this theory of partial control and its effects on political knowledge, political attitudes, and political behaviors, using a mixed methods approach. I use a combination of aggregate data analysis, survey research, and experimental methods, employing sophisticated analysis including advanced regression, time series analysis, and genetic matching methods.” – Bode
She concluded that social media does function as a partial control information environment – it is not an echo chamber, but neither does it result in entirely incidental exposure, as political advertising or early network television use did. The vast majority of average users are exposed to political information in this venue, and networks tend to be relatively politically heterogeneous. Exposure to political information can also increase political knowledge, change political attitudes, and affect political behaviors. These findings have major implications for our understanding of communication technology, social media, and sources of political information in the modern media environment.
The award will be conveyed at the annual meeting at the end of August. This is a tremendous accomplishment and we wanted to recognize and congratulate Dr. Bode for her achievement.