Long Ties as Equalizers

Networks, Hacking, and Media – CITA MS@30: Now and Then and Tomorrow

ISBN: 978-1-78769-666-2, eISBN: 978-1-78769-665-5

ISSN: 2050-2060

Publication date: 27 November 2018


In various settings (e.g., political elections, marketing campaigns), competing groups attempt to disseminate messages that promote different viewpoints. Moreover, these groups often differ substantially in the resources they have available for promotion, which may generate inequities in the reach of their messages. With a series of computer simulations, the author investigates the role that social network structure plays in perpetuating or mitigating the inequalities in reach brought about by asymmetric access to resources. The author models such asymmetric access by varying the number of "seeds” available to disseminators (i.e., places in the social network from where their messages begin spreading). The author finds that long ties – links that connect otherwise distant regions of a social network – help to decrease the disparities in dissemination brought about by asymmetric access to seeds. The author shows that this finding generalizes to different assumptions about the proportion of long ties present, the seeding asymmetry, and the rate that messages spread, and argues that information and communication technologies like Facebook and Twitter can foster dissemination equality by prioritizing interactions across long ties.



Shmargad, Y. (2018), "Long Ties as Equalizers", Wellman, B., Robinson, L., Brienza, C., Chen, W. and Cotten, S. (Ed.) Networks, Hacking, and Media – CITA MS@30: Now and Then and Tomorrow (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 17), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 99-112. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2050-206020180000017006

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