Phil 4.7.18

A Tale of Two Movements: Egypt During the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street

  • Social media provides flexible platforms that play key roles in energizing collective action in movements like Arab Spring (AS) and Occupy Wall Street (OWS). By enabling individuals to display emotions broadly, social media amplify sentiments defined as shared collective emotion to supply the forces that drive change in society. This study describes how one platform, Facebook, contributed to these two different examples of political activism. Using social network analytics and text mining, we examine how Fan Page posts during the life of the movements influenced the formation of social ties by using sentimental messaging. We hypothesize a set of relationships between group cohesion and polarity of sentiments in explaining involvement. We find that the strength of social ties formed through exchanges of posts and comments influence participation, but its effect differs across two movements. We also find that negative sentiments are associated with more participation for Egypt during the AS than OWS. Our results suggest cultural differences play a major role in participation behaviors. Social media is important in engineering management, because someone who has a negative reaction to a project or a product can use these media to reach thousands of individuals and potentially turn sentiment against a project.

Prefrontal cortex as a meta-reinforcement learning system

  • Over the past twenty years, neuroscience research on reward-based learning has converged on a canonical model, under which the neurotransmitter dopamine ‘stamps in’ associations between situations, actions and rewards by modulating the strength of synaptic connections between neurons. However, a growing number of recent findings have placed this standard model under strain. In the present work, we draw on recent advances in artificial intelligence to introduce a new theory of reward-based learning. Here, the dopamine system trains another part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, to operate as its own free-standing learning system. This new perspective accommodates the findings that motivated the standard model, but also deals gracefully with a wider range of observations, providing a fresh foundation for future research.

Blade Runner And The Synthetic Panopticon

  •  There are already thousands of articles on misinformation, disinformation, and journalism flying by us every day in the US, in this very strange year, 2017. Rather than add to that, I simply intend to make several big picture observations that seem to be getting very little attention. Our present journalistic crisis comes to be not because people are merely misinformed about the truth, but because of a fundamental misunderstanding about how social power determines the construction of truth.

The disinformation order: Disruptive communication and the decline of democratic institutions

  • Many democratic nations are experiencing increased levels of false information circulating through social media and political websites that mimic journalism formats. In many cases, this disinformation is associated with the efforts of movements and parties on the radical right to mobilize supporters against centre parties and the mainstream press that carries their messages. The spread of disinformation can be traced to growing legitimacy problems in many democracies. Declining citizen confidence in institutions undermines the credibility of official information in the news and opens publics to alternative information sources. Those sources are often associated with both nationalist (primarily radical right) and foreign (commonly Russian) strategies to undermine institutional legitimacy and destabilize centre parties, governments and elections. The Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom and the election of Donald Trump in the United States are among the most prominent examples of disinformation campaigns intended to disrupt normal democratic order, but many other nations display signs of disinformation and democratic disruption. The origins of these problems and their implications for political communication research are explored.

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