Algorithmic conspirituality: Explicating its emergence, dimensions, and persuasibility

Shaheen Kanthawala, Kelley Cotter, Amy Ritchart, Ankolika De, Haley McAtee, Connie Yun, & Julia DeCook.

Algorithmic conspirituality is the belief that social media algorithms have the capacity to know users intimately and convey personally meaningful messages at the exact right moment to revelatory effect. Through a thematic analysis of TikTok videos, this study explicates this concept by identifying five distinct dimensions of its expression on TikTok—(1) relational, (2) injunctive, (3) personal, (4) spiritual, (5) conspiratorial—and explaining their relationship with the platform’s affordances—(1) connectedness, (2) personalization, and (3) social creativity. We then connect the emergence and impact of this phenomenon to the possibility for persuasion and behavior changes through normalization of messaging in areas such as mental health, smoking, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and body dysmorphia that could lead to positive and negative health outcomes.
New Media & Society

Taking the lead in misinformation-related conversations in social media networks during a mass shooting crisis

Jiyoung Lee, Brian C. Britt, Shaheen Kanthawala

Misinformation (i.e. information identified as false) spreads widely and quickly on social media – a space where crowds of ordinary citizens can become leading voices – during a crisis when information is in short supply. Using the theoretical lenses of socially curated flow and networked gatekeeping frameworks, we address the following three aims: First, we identify emergent opinion leaders in misinformation-related conversations on social media. Second, we explore distinct groups that contribute to online discourses about misinformation. Lastly, we investigate the actual dominance of misinformation within disparate groups in the early phases of mass shooting crises.

This paper used network and cluster analyses of Twitter data that focused on the four most prevalent misinformation themes surrounding the El Paso mass shooting.

A total of seven clusters of users emerged, which were classified into five categories: (1) boundary-spanning hubs, (2) broadly popular individuals, (3) reputation-building hubs, (4) locally popular individuals and (5) non-opinion leaders. Additionally, a content analysis of 128 tweets in six clusters, excluding the cluster of non-opinion leaders, further demonstrated that the opinion leaders heavily focused on reiterating and propagating misinformation (102 out of 128 tweets) and collectively made zero corrective tweets.

These findings expand the intellectual understanding of how various types of opinion leaders can shape the flow of (mis)information in a crisis. Importantly, this study provides new insights into the role of trans-boundary opinion leaders in creating an echo chamber of misinformation by serving as bridges between otherwise fragmented discourses.
Internet Research

Pro-social framing and sentiment in U.S. broadcast networks’ Instagram posts about the COVID-19 vaccine

Amy, Ritchart; Rebecca, Britt

The study uses health risk frames to conduct 1) a content analysis and 2) a computational sentiment analysis to analyze the framing of the COVID-19 vaccine in Instagram posts by major broadcast news networks during its first year of availability in the United States. The analysis focused on the portrayal of the vaccine as a pro-social solution to the pandemic, with emphasis on the consequences of the pandemic, individual solutions from medical professionals grounded in science, and the vaccine as a preventive measure. Findings from qualitative content analysis (N = 45) included a reduced presence of alarmist, loss, conflict, and economic consequences frames, and the absence of uncertainty,indicating an explanatory framework and support for the vaccine. The computational sentiment analysis (N = 178) revealed a slightly positive and variable sentiment, suggesting an overall affirmative picture of the vaccine in the networks’ Instagram coverage.
Proceedings of the 57th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences

Social Media as Risk-Attenuation and Misinformation-Amplification Station: How Social Media Interaction Affects Misperceptions about COVID-19

Jiyoung Lee, Jihyang Choi & Rebecca K. Britt

This study addresses how social media interaction affects misperceptions about COVID-19 via risk perceptions thereof and whether political orientation moderates the relationship. Using original two-wave panel survey data (N = 679), this study reveals that social media interaction increases misperception directly, as well as indirectly by reducing the extent of risk perception. The extent of risk perception is found to be a negative predictor of misperception. The deleterious role of social media interaction on misperception is pronounced across groups of conservatives and liberals, but in different ways. Although the effects of social media interaction on the level of misperception are observed in both conservatives and liberals, this relationship is particularly salient among conservatives. Furthermore, whereas conservatives consistently show low levels of risk perception toward COVID-19 regardless of how much they interact with others on social media, the more liberals interact on social media, the less likely they are to perceive COVID-19-related risks. The findings expand our understanding of the role of interaction behaviors on social media in forming risk perceptions and misperceptions on the politicized COVID-19 pandemic.
Health Communication

Factbait: Emotionality of Fact-Checking Tweets and Users’ Engagement during the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jiyoung Lee & Brian C. Britt

Given the importance of fact-checking in reducing the spread of false information on social media, prior research has examined effective fact-checking strategies. The current study addresses this question by conducting a computational analysis of actual fact-checking tweets of three representative fact-checking organizations in the United States (, PolitiFact, Snopes), replies, and retweets (N = 166,526) on Twitter made from September 29 to November 3, 2020, when the 2020 U.S. presidential election and the COVID-19 crisis co-occurred. The results show that fact-checking tweets with a greater degree of anxiety and anger generally receive more replies, but those exhibiting sadness are retweeted less. Additionally, fact-checking tweets with heightened levels of anxiety, anger, sadness, or negativity, in general, tend to elicit replies featuring a degree of anxiety, anger, sadness, or negativity, respectively. Our findings suggest that emotions can be utilized as drivers of engagement in fact-checking tweets, meaning that the emotional impetus can potentially serve as an important strategy to make fact-checking efforts more impactful in uncertain situations. However, fact-checking organizations should be aware that emotional appeals in fact-checking posts catalyze correspondingly emotional responses from their audiences, which reflects the emotional contagion process.Digital Journalism .

Quantum power iteration to efficiently obtain the dominant eigenvector from diagonalizable nonnegative matrices

Brian C. Britt

This manuscript presents a quantum computing implementation of power iteration for diagonalizable nonnegative matrices that offers a significant speed increase for large matrices, achieving O(Kmax(mi) + N) time complexity for each iteration. The computational approach presented in this manuscript may be directly applied to numerous other algorithms derived from power iteration, ultimately allowing near-term quantum devices to facilitate a broad range of analyses that would otherwise be infeasible. Quantum Information Processing.

The State of Ehealth Research across Information Technologies: A Longitudinal Analysis Using Topic Modeling to Address Future Scholarship

Rebecca K. Britt, Suyu Chou, Ozioma Omah, Ananya Chakraborty

eHealth research has been marked by the last two decades of scholarship spurred by technological advances and the potential of health promotion and behavior change. The study examined the state of eHealth scholarship across social, behavioral and information technologies through a systematic, machine-based learning approach of the last 19 years across 811 articles. The study analyzes topics that were published using latent Dirichlet allocation of studies from 2002 to 2021; it also raises ethical challenges for researchers related to those in prior health initiatives by the CDC and in current scholarship. Results show the common topics, terms, and linguistic attributes within the state of eHealth scholarship and disparities in other areas based on topics published. Suggestions are offered for interdisciplinary collaboration to facilitate the growth and the optimal, practical use of eHealth and directions for the future.Proceedings of the 56th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Infrastructural and network support in the illness experience: The role of community crowdsourcing in self-care

Rebecca K. Britt, Erin Faith Doss, Meredith Hayes

Social sharing within pseudonymous online communities can assist- or hinder- the self-management of health care and emphasize challenges associated with chronic illness. For those who are affected by chronic illness who participate in a public online community, the breadth of topics discussed in a corpus of a pseudonymous group can lend insight into tracking the interaction processes and outcomes. Examining the topics discussed in the endometriosis subreddit (r/endo) informs public health strategies as well as ethical considerations in health care surrounding stigmatized illness in a public community. In the present study, the data corpus of r/endo was analyzed and scraped, employing computational data mining techniques to uncover the discursive practices within the community. The topics of self-management is constructed by diagnosed and undiagnosed patients; endometriosis etiology and understanding symptoms negotiated within the community. In an online community for those who face unique health challenges from endometriosis, we argue that users engage in a form of community crowdsourcing via information exchange and network support, spurred by the platform affordances of Reddit.Proceedings of the 56th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Megathreads and ‘waifu wars’: A structural content analysis of r/persona5 as a community of practice

Rebecca K. Britt & PS Berge

Communities of practice dedicated to video game fandoms are not uncommon, and extant literature has examined how video game media continues to emerge in global popularity. The current study examines the dominant discourse within a community dedicated to the game Persona 5, which has expanded beyond its initial niche into a larger transmedia phenomenon. In this study, we excavate the Persona 5 Reddit fandom to identify and extract themes within the group conversations to better understand how niche games and fandoms navigate growth into the larger mainstream. Methodologically, the full data corpus was extracted and analyzed using a computational content analysis. Our findings revealed that discourse was structured through three levels: moderation in the community, gameplay, and fandom surrounding the game. We suggest implications for future research, such as understanding contemporary fandoms through COPs and digital spaces, and acknowledging the dominant role of community infrastructure and metatextual discourse in fandom spaces.Participations – Journal of Audience and Reception Studies.

Japan’s digital diaspora: social capital, health, and public communication in r/japanlife

Rebecca K. Britt & Katharina Barkley

The present study examines the communication of members in an online community designed for both native and foreign residents living in Japan. The community serves as a platform for members to discuss various topics related to lifestyle, health, food, fashion, among other topics. Using a topic model, we analyzed a mid-size sample (n = 150k) to identify the primary topics of discussion and the potential benefits of participation. The findings indicate that health, lifestyle, travel within and outside of Japan, financial and domestic advice seeking, and temporal discussions for foreigners were the main themes discussed. We discuss the implications of these results and suggest future research directions, such as exploring sensitive topics among Japanese residents and examining the role of mediated communication in society.Japan Forum.

Trends and challenges within Reddit and health communication research: A systematic review

Rebecca K Britt, Courtny L Franco, & Naiyan Jones

There is a growing body of health communication literature addressing health-related discourse across user-generated platforms. Specifically, Reddit, the 19th most visited website in the world, serves as a promising venue for understanding communication surrounding health concerns. Such studies apply a variety of theories and methodological approaches, analyze large corpora, and build predictive and descriptive models for public health communication. The current study investigates health communication literature in the context of Reddit, identifying major topics, theories, and methods employed across studies, as well as how health communication topics have evolved over time. We identify future research directions, proposing theoretical and methodological considerations as well as issues and practices to employ when researching health phenomena via social platforms.Communication and the Public.

Communication Expressed on the COVID-19 Subreddit in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

Rebecca K. Britt, Brian C. Britt, Elliot Panek & Jiyoung Lee

The manner in which scientific information related to the COVID-19 pandemic has been shared and discussed in similar venues has, to date, been largely neglected. Considering the role that such discourse plays in knowledge sharing and knowledge production, it is essential to understand such communication processes as they relate to global health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. The current study examines communication expressed by participants in the r/COVID19 subreddit, a community that facilitates scientific discussion of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A computational content analysis was performed to identify the primary themes of users’ communication on r/COVID19, while stepwise segmented regression was used to assess identify longitudinal changes in the volume of user contributions. Findings showed that while conversations were centered on scientific conversations, they were catalyzed by sociological and political developments rather than scientific breakthroughs. Future studies should examine the effects of pandemic-related communities on lurkers, the effects of visibility on scientific and medical contributions, and the implications of pseudonymity and ambiguous credentials in a community addressing a volatile health and scientific topic.Health Communication.

Beyond reputational and financial damage: Examining emotional and religious harm in a post-crisis case study of Hillsong Church

Jordan Morehouse, Laura L. Lemon

Religious organizations have largely been overlooked in public relations scholarship, particularly in the crisis communication literature. Additionally, research in crisis communication primarily focuses on the reputational, material, and financial damage caused by crises. This study addresses theoretical and topical gaps in public relations scholarship by advancing Spaulding’s (2018) emotional and religious harm categories for moral crises within religious organizations. Results of a qualitative case study of Hillsong Church’s Carl Lentz crisis suggest an emotional harm continuum exists for moral crises, and religious harm emerges as distancing as a religious protective measure. Findings advance crisis communication theory regarding the use of religious and renewal rhetoric and types of harm inflicted from crises, and assists practitioners in crafting post-crisis messages that prioritize stakeholder healing and the organization’s recovery.Public Relations Review.

Reporting during the COVID-19 eras: Media attention and news framing through a large-scale computational analysis

Amy Ritchart, Rebecca Britt, Shaheen, Kanthawala, Khadiza Jannat & Naiyan Tul Jones

The present study examined framing that emerged in global newspaper coverage of the COVID-19 vaccine through a large-scale computational qualitative analysis of five critical time periods. The study revealed an increase in the concentration of media attention occurring as the vaccine was developed and distributed. Frames of action and consequence, as well as attribution of responsibility, pro-science, tracking and documenting, and issues relating to efficacy and safety surrounding preventative actions and public health solutions emerged. Proceedings of the 57th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

A Multimodal Emotion Perspective on Social Media Influencer Marketing: The Effectiveness of Influencer Emotions, Network Size, and Branding on Consumer Brand Engagement Using Facial Expression and Linguistic Analysis

Steven J. Holiday, Jameson L. Hayes, Haseon Park, Yuanwei Lyu, & Yang ” Josie” Zhou

Social media influencers rely on emotional connection to maintain and grow their followings and have value for brands. To date, however, no research has quantitatively examined the impact of emotion in the facial expressions and caption text that influencers use in their video posts on consumer engagement through likes, comments, and views of posts. Grounded in consumer brand engagement, psychological sense of community, and the behavior ecology view of facial displays, this study uses social media analytics, facial expression analysis, and computational linguistic analysis to assess the emotional substance of 402 video posts by prominent micro-, macro-, and mega-influencer mothers, known as InstaMoms, as exemplars of Instagram influencers. The study identifies that the amount of emotion used and specific discrete emotions have a meaningful influence on engagement, and both follower count and presence of branding saliently contribute to a more robust understanding of the relationship. Theoretical and practical implications are identified and discussed. This study was published in Journal of Interactive Marketing.

Can Social Media Listening Platforms’ Artificial Intelligence Be Trusted? Examining the Accuracy of Crimson Hexagon’s (Now Brandwatch Consumer Research’s) AI-Driven Analyses

Jameson L. Hayes, Brian C. Britt, William Evans, Stephen W. Rush, Nathan A. Towery, Alyssa C. Adamson

Practitioners and scholars increasingly employ social media listening platforms (SMLPs) driven by artificial intelligence (AI) to extract actionable insights from large amounts of social media data informing research questions and brand strategy. Due to their proprietary nature, AI tools within SMLPs are “black boxes” that force users to accept results on blind faith, a source of concern in industry and academia. This study seeks to provide greater understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of SMLPs by assessing the AI-based results of leading SMLP Crimson Hexagon (now Brandwatch Consumer Research) against those of a standard human content analysis and an analysis conducted using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). This study was published in The Journal of Advertising,

Using targeted betweenness centrality to identify bridges to neglected users in the Twitter conversation on veteran suicide

Brian C. Britt, Jameson L. Hayes, Aibek Musaev, Pezhman Sheinidashtegol, Scott Parrott, avid L. Albright

There are many real-world contexts in which it would be invaluable to identify intermediaries who serve as bridges for specified dyads. For instance, with respect to suicide prevention among military veterans, mental health organizations play an important role in providing information, social support, and other resources to veterans, particularly on social media, where anonymous and pseudonymous interactions may help to counteract the stigma associated with suicide and mental health. However, many at-risk individuals are overlooked in the large-scale conversations on social media and are thus less likely to benefit from those interactions. Intermediaries who can integrate those peripheral actors into the conversation, or at least deliver essential information to them, could help to resolve this issue. The critical question, then, is how to identify those potentially useful intermediaries who are well positioned to act as bridges to reach peripheral actors. To address this challenge, we propose a new network measure, targeted betweenness centrality, to identify vertices that represent potentially useful intermediaries between specified dyads, then use that measure to identify social media users who can act as opinion leaders on behalf of the US Department of Veterans Affairs to reach vertices on the periphery of the Twitter conversation about veteran suicide. The results of this study provide useful insights related to opinion leadership, the military veteran community, and suicide prevention, and more broadly, they demonstrate the practical utility of targeted betweenness centrality for real-world research across a variety of contexts. Published in Social Network Mining & Analysis.

Prevalence of anger, engaged in sadness: engagement in misinformation, correction, and emotional tweets during mass shootings

Jiyoung Lee, Shaheen Kanthawala, Brian C. Britt, Danielle F. Deavours, Tanya Ott-Fulmore

The pervasive anger-laden tweets about mass shooting incidents might contribute to hostile narratives and eventually reignite political polarization. The notable presence of anger in correction tweets further suggests that those who are trying to provide correction to misinformation also rely on emotion. Moreover, our study suggests that displays of sadness could function in a way that leads individuals to rely on false claims as a coping strategy to counteract uncertainty. Publish in Online Information Review.

Oral Healthcare Implications of Dedicated Online Communities: A Computational Content Analysis of the r/Dentistry Subreddit

Brian C. Britt, Rebecca K. Britt, Jameson L. Hayes, Eliot T. Panek, Jessica Maddox, Aibek Musaev

The study explores communication expressed by participants in a subreddit surrounding oral health care, moderated by dentists and dental hygienists. The corpus was analyzed through Leximancer, a computer-assisted program used for computational content analyses of large data sets. Users’ personal disclosures about ongoing dental concerns, advice about others’ self-care, and the role of interpersonal communication with and among health care providers emerged as dominant themes. The findings suggest that online communities may serve an important role that dentists are unable to fill in their limited interactions with individual patients. Such interaction spaces may therefore offer a fertile environment for future interventions to promote beneficial practices and achieve positive health-related outcomes. Publish in Health Communication.

Social TV and the WWE: Exploring the fan-to-brand relationship in a highly engaged, live-viewing, interactive online space

Stephen McCreery, Brian C. Britt, Jameson L. Hayes

Social television (TV) engagement has become more commonplace as viewers seek alternative ways of engaging with TV shows and other viewers. This is especially true with televised professional wrestling; 119,506 tweets were analyzed using social network analysis during the four World Wrestling Entertainment telecasts. Results show that brand-affiliated users primarily interact among one another and not the fans themselves, despite fans reaching out to the brand, resulting in significant social stratification and low interactivity within the community. The findings suggest that when fans think they are able to join and contribute to the brand’s ongoing conversation, those fans might still be highly motivated to communicate with the brand, even if the brand does not reciprocate. Published in Convergence.

Continuing a Community of Practice Beyond the Death of its Domain

Brian C. Britt, Rebecca K. Britt, Jameson L. Hayes, Jeyoung Oh

In this study, which was published in Behaviour & Information Technology, our team examined a longstanding online community of practice developed around the Tales of Link mobile game to discern how its members responded when the mobile game itself was shut down. This study demonstrated potential avenues to sustain a community of practice whose domain has been terminated, such as substituting an analogous domain or converting the group to a community of interest, as well as potential pitfalls in attempts to do so.

What Inspired That Tweet: A Comparative Analysis of Official and Stakeholder-Enacted Crisis Responses During the Urban Meyer/Zach Smith Scandal

Natalie Brown-Devlin, Kenon A. Brown, Brian C. Britt, Alyssa Adamson

This study investigated the relationship between stakeholder enacted crisis communication and organizational crisis response. Through textual analysis, the reputation repair strategies that head coach Urban Meyer utilized in his four public statements regarding the Zach Smith scandal were identified. Next, 10,000 tweets from Ohio-based stakeholders were content analyzed to examine the extent to which stakeholders mirror the selected strategies employed by an individual enveloped in a crisis and amplify them through their own social media networks. Results showed that stakeholders engaged in three primary behaviors: rallying together by using the ingratiation and reminder strategies; mirroring some of Meyer’s official strategies; and utilizing their own strategies to attribute blame to other, external parties. Implications regarding how stakeholders utilize Twitter, itself, during a crisis were also proffered. Published in Communication & Sport.

From #endthestigma to #realman: Stigma-Challenging Social Media Responses to NBA Players’ Mental Health Disclosures

Scott Parrot, Andrew C. Billings, Samuel D. Hakim, Patrick Gentile

A number of professional athletes have used social media to disclose personal experience with mental illness, including NBA All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love in 2018. The disclosures could serve to challenge the stigmatization of mental illness, given the positive social standing of professional athletes and the potential power of parasocial relationships in health promotion and behavior. The present study quantitatively examined 3,366 fan responses to the mental health disclosures of both athletes, unpacking the extent to which fan commentary perpetuated or challenged the stigmatization of depression and anxiety. Fans provided overwhelmingly positive response to the athletes’ mental health disclosures, creating a normative environment in which disclosure translated into acceptance rather than rejection. While more frequently offering messages of advice and strength to DeRozan, fans were more likely to offer messages of encouragement and personal experiences with mental illness to Love. Published in Communication Reports.

From Waifus to Whales

Brian C. Britt, Rebecca K. Britt

We assessed the manifestation of discussions in an online community of practice based around a popular mobile game, Fate/Grand Order, as well as the evolution of those conversations over time. This study which was published in Mobile Media & Communication, showcased the manner in which online communities of practice evolve as its members ascend toward mastery of the practice that they jointly explore.

Social Media and Suicide

Scott Parrott, Brian C. Britt, Jameson L. Hayes, David L. Albright

The present study collected and validated suicide-related terms from the U.S. English language in 2018–2019. By validating clinical and lay terms with people on the front lines of suicide prevention, the study provides a necessary foundation for lexical analyses of suicide communication on social media. This study was published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work.

Presidential and Gubernatorial Tweets Involving Military Servicemembers and Veterans

Nicholas R. Eckhart, Kirsten Laha-Walsh, Scott Parrott, David L. Albright

The military consistently ranks as one of the most highly favorable occupations in the United States (US). However, fewer and fewer people have contact with military veterans than in the past, a trend that is expected to continue. Since military veterans carry such high levels of favorability but continue to lose contact with society, a content analysis of 1,976 tweets from former president Donald Trump and US governors was conducted to understand how military veterans were represented in the political arena on Twitter. Tweets were pulled between January 20, 2017 and November 26, 2019. Results indicated nearly all tweets about military veterans were positive and that Republicans tweeted twice as often about veterans as Democrats did. The topics of the tweets were mostly heroism (50.8%) followed by legislative or political agendas (45.5%). Republicans also provided more quotes from veterans than Democrats did, but Republicans did not use that contact to reduce stigma surrounding mental health. Published in Journal of Veterans Studies.

Enhancing Trustworthiness of Qualitative Findings

Laura L. Lemon, Jameson L. Hayes

Our study offers an approach to enhancing trustworthiness of qualitative findings through data analysis triangulation using Leximancer, a text mining software that uses co-occurrence to conduct semantic and relational analyses of text corpuses to identify concepts, themes, and how they relate to one another. The Leximancer analysis provided missing nuance from the a priori model, depicting the value of and connection between emergent themes. This study was published in the The Quality Report.

The Cause Effect

Steven Holiday, Jameson L. Hayes, Brian C. Britt, Yuanwei Lyu

This study addressed the effect of corporate social responsibility on long-term cause engagement—specifically, whether individuals who participated in the Mean Stinks anti-bullying campaign remained engaged with the cause after the campaign ended. This analysis, which was published in the International Journal of Advertising, demonstrated the potential for campaigns to attract newcomers to the cause as well as the risk of disenfranchising those who were already committed to the cause.

Too Big to Sell?

Rebecca K. Britt, Jameson L. Hayes, Brian C. Britt, Haseon Park

Our team examined the roles that mega influencers and micro influencers play in social media conversations about the beauty and fashion industry. This article, which was published in the Journal of Interactive Advertising, indicated that influencer posts using affective language elicit less engagement, a negative effect that is especially severe among micro influencers, thus contradicting the popular assumption that micro influencers can best fill unique roles by engaging in intimate, emotion-laden interactions with their followers.

Oral Healthcare Implications of Dedicated Online Communities

Brian C. Britt, Rebecca K. Britt, Jameson L. Hayes, Elliot T. Panek, Jessica Maddox, Aibek Musaev

We used Leximancer to analyze the evolving structure of conversations about oral healthcare on the r/Dentistry subreddit. This study, which was published in Health Communication, showed how online communities may supplement traditional interactions between patients and health care providers, satisfying healthcare needs that patient-provider communication alone does not address.