Houjun Liu

PWR1 RBA Planning

Dual influence framework:

  1. requires political involvement
  2. requires diverse media diet

Proposal: based on feedback on TIC-focus on one case study and isolate it well


Social media as a means of exposure to the modern world

“Daniel Lerner (1958) saw mass media as the main catalyst for social change. Lerner argued that media exposed people who possess traditional values to the “modern” world, and that exposure in turn produced a desire to live in it.” [⁨Díez⁩ and ⁨Dion⁩, 2022, p. 467]

Criticism of the argument of social-media driven modernity because of unequal access

“Lerner’s arguments were expectedly later criticized. For some, they did not consider the fact that access to mass communication can be highly unequal in some countries in the global South. Work on Latin America, for example, showed that, in rural areas, media are often dominated by elites (Beltrán 1976)” [⁨Díez⁩ and ⁨Dion⁩, 2022, p. 467]

Increased exposure on SM results in increased support

“relationship b between Internet use and levels of support for SSM” [is strong] [⁨Díez⁩ and ⁨Dion⁩, 2022, p. 477)

Economic development is correlated with strong adoption of self expression

“Equipped with reliable longitudinal data newly available, this scholarship demonstrates that there exists an association between levels of economic development and the adoption of “self-expression” values, such as support for gender equality and tolerance for homosexuality.” [⁨Díez⁩ and ⁨Dion⁩, 2022, p. 468]

Social contract theory indicates that people become more tolerant due to interaction, diminishing the power of “vicarious” communities"

“Based on social contact theory, which suggests that individuals become more tolerant of groups as they interact with them, some scholars have shown that contact with “imagined” or “vicarious” communities that are diffused through mass media can have an effect on lowering prejudices and improving attitudes toward gay people (Riggle 1996; Schiappa, Gregg, and Hewes 2006).” [⁨Díez⁩ and ⁨Dion⁩, 2022, p. 468]

People who “pay attention to news” + “use internet daily” more likely to support SSM

“As depicted in Figure 3, the predicted probabilities of supporting SSM are consistent with our expectation that those who pay attention to the news and use the Internet daily are much more likely to support SSM. We believe this is because those who both pay attention to the news and use the Internet daily are likely to encounter news online that helps diffuse global attitudes about SSM” [⁨Díez⁩ and ⁨Dion⁩, 2022, p. 475]

People who just consume internet are not exposed nearly as much to SSM

“Meanwhile, for those that use the Internet often, but who do not pay attention to the news, the Internet is likely to be a source of entertainment or social interaction, which are not necessarily associated with encountering new information related to SSM. This interaction between Internet use and news consumption is also evident and significant when the data are disaggregated by year (see appendix).” [⁨Díez⁩ and ⁨Dion⁩, 2022, p. 475]

increased exposure and increased discussion normalizes attitudes—use of word normalize, depolarize

“The results lend credence to the argument, derived from social contact theory, that increased exposure to gays and lesbians as well as to discussions about homosexuality and the merits of SSM may have a normalizing effect on individuals’ attitudes. Research also shows that such interaction can take place through mass media (Berggren and Nilsson 2015)” [⁨Díez⁩ and ⁨Dion⁩, 2022, p. 478]

ssm debates preceded by 1) higher emotion and 2) few active engagements results in failed legalization

“we find evidence of moral culture wars between ideologies and show that constituencies that express higher levels of emotion and have fewer actively engaged participants often precede legalization efforts that fail” [⁨Zhang⁩ and ⁨Counts⁩, 2015, p. 2603]

sustained interest and overall engagement precede legalization success

“We found that policies that passed had a greater percentage of people with sustained interest over time, had greater overall engagement levels, and had significantly higher levels of language related to fairness and openness before the decision. On the other hand, states with policies that failed had higher levels of anxiety, religion, and tentativeness. These findings align with previous research characterizing the same-sex marriage debate as a “culture war” [1], where proponents advocate for it in terms of fairness morality, while opponents argue against it in terms of religious morality.” [⁨Zhang⁩ and ⁨Counts⁩, 2015, p. 2610]

media diversity is important, otherwise one side may drown out the other

“if one message is able to drown out the other, it may allow said message to dictate the terms of the debate and change minds (and eventually laws) accordingly … This inquiry argues that media coverage (in terms of both specific frames and the competition between said frames) of same-sex marriage and civil unions shapes levels of opposition to these policies.” [Johnson, 2012, p. 1056]

paradigm shift happens through tipping the scale, not pushing it over (i.e. less effort)

“Morality framing in-and-of itself did not seem to have as much power as equality framing when it came to changing minds between 2004 and 2011, but those interested in spreading a message of morality and rolling back same-sex marriage and civil unions efforts should realize that, should they tip the balance of the competition between these two frames back in their favor, levels of opposition have the potential to shift once more in a way that benefits their policy goals.” [Johnson, 2012, p. 1074]

expanding generics is a common attack surface in morality arguments

“Experience has shown that it is not possible to debate the recognition of same-sex marriage without opponents making a normative connection between homosexuality and other forms of human relationships such as polygamy.” [Ball, p. 1900]

lack of engegement

“the lack of spirited political engagement … Comparatively little is offered in support of gay and lesbian rights” (95)


tolerance among adults toward homosexuals and toward people of different race, collected from the World Values Survey and European Values Study.31 Both cross-sectional and panel results (available on request) suggest that globalization does not generally affect these tolerance measures.32 In other words, increasing economic, social and political integration does not seem to influence the contemporary level of tolerance in the adult population,” [⁨Berggren⁩ and ⁨Nilsson⁩, 2015, p. 384]


Thus, participation in itself is an expression of some degree of (enabled) power [Dahlgren, 2016, p. 26]

Sub-claim Development

Define polarization and state of play in SSM

Yoink from TIC:

  • define polarization
  • motivate the study of polarization through extreme cases

One salient case of depolarization in recent years is SSM. Debate transition from SSM into other intersectionality / rights (CITE). Direct measurements too: gallup—Republican vs. Democracts gap closed on the topic.

SSM offers a salient case study of what depolarization can look like. Having gone through the cycle, we are afforded post-hoc analysis of what worked and didn’t work.

We know what worked: ssm debates preceded by 1) higher emotion and 2) few active engagements results in failed legalization, whereas sustained interest and overall engagement precede legalization success—tied to the depolarization.

But why? and specifically, why these things? How can we generalize this?

A careful study of polarization helps inform why these things worked. We are going to do this from social media because (from the TIC social media is easy). The framework will show that [TiC thesis].

After developing such a framework, we will develop this analysis on two cases:

  1. briefly on trolls (this is polarizing), and
  2. SSM (this is depolarizing), which, given that’s what we’re after, we are going to exand and learn from to further investigate the motivating dynamics of the framework in context of SSM.

<>all of the lit review

Begin by developing the framework.


SSM has all the parts that’s needed for this to work.

[vocab note: homophilic is not the same thing as MSM. We use it in the network dynamics sense. also not talking about the rest of queer community, which has a much more complex/intersectional set of issues.]

So while trolls polarize, SSM is an example of successful polarization.

Recall previous efforts: 1) high emotion 2) low engagement—-highly homophilic interactions.

The depolarization of SSM follows an extremely similar pattern to the depolarization framework developed through studying social media in general: post-hoc studies highlights that depolarization of SSM is characterized by both increased exposure to the community on social media as well as increased active political engagement with the community. The close correspondence between SSM and the framework, therefore offers an opportunity to directly use the underlying motivations of SSM legalization as a study of the motivation of the framework in general.

Media needs to be diverse for SSM because otherwise it creates vicarious communities.

SSM’s success tied to sustained, diverse interest largely through social media.

Social contract theory indicates that people become more tolerant due to interaction, diminishing the power of “vicarious” communities". One such group: social media as a means of exposure SSM practice. Indeed, we notice this before overall support: Increased exposure on SM results in increased support.

Yet, these results are tempered: media diversity is important, otherwise one side may drown out the other and may even be counter-productive. This counter-productivity is created by as given by Novoa, generics—whereby the counter-party will frame SSM along with other factors to criticize as a group. Therefore, true exposure can only happen if no one side drowns out the other; otherwise it will be vicarious “totem” effect.

SSM debates cannot succeed with diverse media alone, it requires active engagement with the topic too

SSM is an act of “self expression”, “expression” is an active verb of engagement. Active engagement doesn’t come from simply being on the internet, which is shown to not be a factor enough to expose to SSM. ⁨Díez⁩ and ⁨Dion⁩ frames this engagement as a process of normalization of these attitudes: use of word normalize is the crucial factor to depolarize.

Conclusion + Discussion

Two-prong framework + evidence from SSM:

  1. diverse media diet is needed to prevent totem creation + generics
  2. active engagement is needed to solidify normalization

SSM is perhaps the first because a paradigm shift happens through tipping the scale, not pushing it over (i.e. less effort). So its the easiest to tip over.