Ideological and language polarization in online political discourse. The White House Facebook page


Abstract – This essay explores contemporary political discourse in Computer-mediated communication by analysing the language used in the public discussions on the White House Facebook page during the 2014 State of the Union address, delivered by President Barack Obama. After addressing the notion of the “public sphere” in the context of social networks and political communication in them, the essay looks at the nature of the language of the discussion in a representative corpus of users’ comments. It has been observed that most comments lack coherence and relevance and no constructive dialogue can be built, as many comments consist in insults. The deep ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans, broadly coincident with Pro-Obama and Anti-Obama users, is then viewed in semantic terms by analysing the corpus with the LIWC software. The resulting picture is that of an “argument culture” in which failure in social communication seems to be the most distinctive feature.

Riassunto – Questo saggio esplora il discorso politico contemporaneo nella Comunicazione mediata dal computer attraverso l’analisi del linguaggio utilizzato nelle discussioni pubbliche sulla pagina Facebook della Casa Bianca durante il discorso sullo stato dell’Unione del 2014 tenuto dal presidente statunitense Barack Obama. Dopo aver discusso il concetto di “opinione pubblica” nel contesto dei social networks e la comunicazione politica in essi, viene analizzato il linguaggio della discussione sviluppatasi in un corpus rappresentativo di commenti di utenti. Si rileva come la maggior parte dei commenti non abbiano rilevanza e coerenza, e non emerge alcun tipo di discussione costruttiva, anche perché buona parte dei commenti al discorso di Obama consiste in insulti.  La profonda divisione ideologica tra Democratici e Repubblicani, che in larga parte coincidono con i gruppi di utenti pro-Obama e anti-Obama, emerge poi in termini semantici attraverso l’analisi del corpus con il software LIWC. Il quadro che emerge e quella di una “cultura del conflitto” in cui l’impossibilità nella comunicazione sembra il tratto più distintivo.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v17p83

Keywords: computer-mediated communication; relevance; Facebook; ideology.


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