How the Internet Created Multiple Publics

Cite as: 4 GEO. L. TECH. REV. 399 (2020)

Political identification in the digital age has shifted online: increasingly, people define their political identity in how they come together around issues and news events on the social web.

We adopt online political identities in three major ways: through shared consumption of information on social media platforms; through participation in political movements through hashtags and around news events; or through performance of our political identity via virtue signaling on the Internet. From the alt-right to Bernie bros, online communities coalesce around news articles and other information that allows them to express their political affiliations through the content they read, react to, and share. And through this consumption of similar information, they form little political information universes often referred to as “media ecosystems.”1

These universes are segregated in the kind of information they consume due to the ways in which the social web is engineered. The Internet caters information to people in highly personalized ways and often delivers more of the same through algorithms rather than serendipitously. It is optimized for the virality of one-punch headlines, not stories with nuance. And this pushes political information universes further apart than they may otherwise naturally be.

Continue Reading

Lam Thuy Vo

Lam Thuy Vo is a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News where she digs into data to examine how systems and policies affect individuals. She has an expertise in mining and analyzing data from the social web and is currently a visiting researcher for the Technology and Social Change Project at the Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. In 2019, she published a book, Mining Social Media, about her empirical approach to examining data from the Internet with No Starch Press.