Although Brexit has been considered an unexpected ‘incident’ by the majority of observers, this paper challenges this idea. It thus considers the recent discussion on ‘filter bubbles’ and ‘selective exposure on social media’ Spohr (2017) to document how an increasing consumption of news and information through specific web platforms has effects on the ideological polarization of public opinion. These thus explain the genesis of this particular event. It will be shown how these dynamics have been considered by the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum in the UK. Exploiting echo chambers they were able to successfully crystallize a number of issues through a narrative that resonated with the British voters’ feelings transforming them into ‘issues’ that could be identified in a single concept: a populistic and creeping xenophobic fear discourse (Wodak 2015). To verify this hypothesis two specific corpora, covering the referendum campaign, were created and are analysed by means of a multimodal analysis approach supplemented by netnography techniques. The first corpus is made up of 2,309 Facebook posts from the Leave.EU page. The second resulted from 367 articles from the Daily Mail. The first alarming result, a ‘self-reinforcing’ social division that endangers democracy, is discussed. In fact, filter bubbles are also associated with the emerging phenomenon of fake news. This division has been possible because the Vote Leave campaign generated a well-segregated echo chamber where voters focused on one narrative while ignoring the other (Del Vicario, Zollo et alii 2017). All the findings and their related big data are discussed against the theories of small data and that of broken windows (Gladwell 2002, Lindstrom 2016, Wilson and Kelling 1982).Del Vicario Michela, Zollo Fabiana et alii (2017). “Mapping social dynamics on Facebook: the Brexit debate”. Social Networks, 50: 6–16. Gladwell Malcom (2002). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Little Difference. New York: Little, Brown and Company (ebook edition). Lindstrom Martin (2016). Small Data: the Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Spohr Dominic (2017). “Fake News and Ideological Polarization: Filter Bubbles and Selective Exposure on Social Media”. Business Information Review, 34(3) 150-160. Wilson James Q., Kelling George L. (1982). “Broken Windows: The police and neighborhood safety”. The Atlantic. Wodak Ruth (2015). The Politics of Fear. What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean. London: Sage.

Big Data, Small Data, Broken Windows and Fear Discourse: Brexit, the EU and the Majority Illusion.

Michelangelo Conoscenti
2018-01-01

Abstract

Although Brexit has been considered an unexpected ‘incident’ by the majority of observers, this paper challenges this idea. It thus considers the recent discussion on ‘filter bubbles’ and ‘selective exposure on social media’ Spohr (2017) to document how an increasing consumption of news and information through specific web platforms has effects on the ideological polarization of public opinion. These thus explain the genesis of this particular event. It will be shown how these dynamics have been considered by the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum in the UK. Exploiting echo chambers they were able to successfully crystallize a number of issues through a narrative that resonated with the British voters’ feelings transforming them into ‘issues’ that could be identified in a single concept: a populistic and creeping xenophobic fear discourse (Wodak 2015). To verify this hypothesis two specific corpora, covering the referendum campaign, were created and are analysed by means of a multimodal analysis approach supplemented by netnography techniques. The first corpus is made up of 2,309 Facebook posts from the Leave.EU page. The second resulted from 367 articles from the Daily Mail. The first alarming result, a ‘self-reinforcing’ social division that endangers democracy, is discussed. In fact, filter bubbles are also associated with the emerging phenomenon of fake news. This division has been possible because the Vote Leave campaign generated a well-segregated echo chamber where voters focused on one narrative while ignoring the other (Del Vicario, Zollo et alii 2017). All the findings and their related big data are discussed against the theories of small data and that of broken windows (Gladwell 2002, Lindstrom 2016, Wilson and Kelling 1982).Del Vicario Michela, Zollo Fabiana et alii (2017). “Mapping social dynamics on Facebook: the Brexit debate”. Social Networks, 50: 6–16. Gladwell Malcom (2002). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Little Difference. New York: Little, Brown and Company (ebook edition). Lindstrom Martin (2016). Small Data: the Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Spohr Dominic (2017). “Fake News and Ideological Polarization: Filter Bubbles and Selective Exposure on Social Media”. Business Information Review, 34(3) 150-160. Wilson James Q., Kelling George L. (1982). “Broken Windows: The police and neighborhood safety”. The Atlantic. Wodak Ruth (2015). The Politics of Fear. What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean. London: Sage.
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http://www.ojs.unito.it/index.php/deeuropa/article/view/2914/2825
Fake News, Multimodal Analysis, Brexit, Facebook, Ideological Polarization.
Michelangelo Conoscenti
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2318/1679666
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