JITP 2011: The Future of Computational Social Science

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Unlike 20th-century mass media, the Internet requires self-selection of content by its very nature. This has raised the normative concern that users may opt to encounter only political information and perspectives that accord with their preexisting views. This study examines the different ways that voters appropriated a new, purpose-built online engagement platform to engage with a wide variety of political opinions and arguments. In a deployment aimed at helping Washington state citizens make their 2010 election decisions, we find that users take significant advantage of three key opportunities to engage with political diversity: reading, acknowledging, and writing arguments on both sides of various policy proposals. Notably, engagement with each of these forms of participation drops off as the required level of commitment increases. We conclude by discussing the implications of these results as well as directions for future research.