Friday, January 31, 2020

The Interplay Between the Media and the Public in Mass Shootings

Continuing our work on shootings we recently had a paper published in Criminology and Public Policy entitled: "Responses to Mass Shooting Events: The Interplay Between the Media and the Public." However, here we do not look at bots but instead explore the how the public responds to mass shooting events (e.g. Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Marshall County, Parkland, Santa Fe), by seeking additional information or exchanging opinions about them in media coverage (e.g. newspaper articles via LexisNexis) and through online sources of information (e.g. Google Trends, Wikipedia and Online Social Networks (i.e. Twitter)). 

Overall, our results show discernible patterns in both time and space in the public’s online information seeking activities after a mass shooting. In addition we find discernible online information seeking patterns in geographic space, with a focal area of interest in the state in which the shooting event occurs, surrounded by a region of reduced interest. This finding further suggests that online information seeking activities are driven, at least in part, by geographic proximity to mass shooting events.

If you wish to find out more about this research, below we provide the summary and policy implication to the paper along with some figures from our methodology (e.g., how we go about analyzing temporal and geographical trends) and some of the results. Finally at the bottom of the post we provide the full reference and a link to the paper.

Research Summary: Public mass shootings tend to capture the public’s attention and receive substantial coverage in both traditional media and online social networks (OSNs) and have become a salient topic in them. Motivated by this, the overarching objective of this paper is to advance our understanding of how the public responds to mass shooting events in such media outlets. Specifically, it aims to examine whether distinct information seeking patterns emerge over time and space, and whether associations between public mass shooting events emerge in online activities and discourse. Towards this objective, we study a sequence of five public mass shooting events that have occurred in the United States between October 2017 and May 2018 across three major dimensions: the public’s online information seeking activities, the media coverage, and the discourse that emerges in a prominent OSN. To capture these dimensions, respectively, data was collected and analyzed from Google Trends, LexisNexis, Wikipedia Page views, and Twitter. The results of our analysis suggest that distinct temporal patterns emerge in the public’s information seeking activities across different platforms, and that associations between an event and its preceding events emerge both in the media coverage and in OSNs.
Policy Implication: Studying the evolution of discourse in OSNs provides a valuable lens to observe how society’s views on public mass shooting events are formed and evolved over time and space. The ability to analyze such data allows tapping into the dynamics of reshaping and reframing public mass shooting events in the public sphere and enable it to be closely studied and modeled. A deeper understanding of this process, along with the emerging associations drawn between such events, can then provide policy and decision-makers with opportunities to better design policies and communicate the significance of their goals and objectives to the public.
A framework for the analysis of temporal and geographical trends .

The analysis processes of Twitter and LexisNexis data.

Geographic patterns in online search activity in Google Trends for the five events in our study.

Chronologically ordered Google Trends search activity (a, left) and Wikipedia page views (b, right). Each vertical solid black line marks the occurrence of one of four shooting events examined in the analysis (as indicated by the line label).

Mentions of prior events during the first approximately 1-month period following each event in each of the events studied. (a) Sutherland Springs, (b) Marshall County, (c) Parkland, (d) Santa Fe.

Full Reference:
Croitoru, A., Kien, S., Mahabir, R., Radzikowski, J., Crooks, A.T., Schuchard, R., Begay, T., Lee, A., Bettios, A. and Stefanidis, A. (2020), Responses to Mass Shooting Events: The Interplay Between the Media and the Public, Criminology and Public Policy, 19(2): 335–360. (pdf)

No comments: