AdvisorBreiger, Ronald L.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation analyzes the interplay between culture and individual behavior using online communication data. Within the burgeoning lines of research produced on these topics by a growing roster of researchers, the distinctive contributions of this dissertation are the use of online communication data, at scale, as a strategic research site for the formulation, testing, and further theoretical modeling of hypotheses including community boundary spanning and diversity of tastes, the richness of public opinion, and the updating of individuals’ preferences as a result of their position within cultural, social, and economic fields. The cultural turn in American Sociology identified meaning making as central to understanding social phenomena which, in turn, has led to an expansion of the sphere of culture to include almost any form of social phenomenon, including but not limited to the musical tastes, words used in text or speech, performativity of market economics, and collective identity in social movements. While the works presented in this dissertation are concerned with analyzing the connections across cultural symbols such as genres and words shared by individuals to create a map of cultural symbols, and therefore can be considered as studies of the sociology of culture, this dissertation also analyzes the impact of the shared distribution of these symbols on other actions of the individuals, such as providing positive or negative feedback to others’ comments based on their cultural interests. The three articles presented in this paper complement each other in that regard. The first article explores how individuals’ diversity in music tastes impact the comments and evaluations they receive from other members of the online community they interact with. An online music-related discussion network of more than 750K community members is analyzed and used to illuminate two existing perspectives in new ways. Consistent with the theory of cultural omnivorousness, my analysis shows that people often appreciate others who participate across discussion of multiple taste-related topics. However, consistent with the boundary spanning literature, those with highly atypical tastes are penalized and face difficulties in fitting in with the community. Therefore, omnivorousness is not appreciated by the rest of the community unless omnivorous individuals are different but within community boundaries. These findings hold net of controls measuring weak culture and cultural embeddedness. The second article presents a comparison of methods of tracking online discussions to identify meanings generated by the online community in unfolding political events. Understanding the evolution of public opinion is central to analyzing the scope of political discontent, which significantly impacts the outcome of framing contests. Most studies analyzing the development of Twitter discussions related to a particular topic, such as a social movement or a political debate, focus on tracking tweets that contain one generic hashtag (for example, #BlackLivesMatter). However, exclusively tracking generic hashtags might not provide an accurate picture of the diversity of narrations coming from different opinion groups. This article develops and applies a snowball sampling method for tracking the evolution of new or replacement hashtags as events unfold. This article provides an exploratory analysis of the March 2019 Turkish local election discussions on Twitter to examine how tracking new hashtags significantly improves the power of the model to identify the diversity of narratives of an event, as compared to tracking the generic hashtag only. The third article sets forth and further develops a theoretical model of behavior. An endogenously updated preferences model is proposed, which can be empirically analyzed through non-experimental observation of changes in cultural decisions of individuals. A key assumption is that individuals’ preferences are determined by their disposition in a field and, therefore, by their access to knowledge, networks, and economic capital after each interaction, which leads preferences to be updated endogenously.
Degree ProgramGraduate College