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Opting Into Information Flows: Partial Information Control on Facebook
Unformatted Document Text:  Baum and Jamison’s work on political learning through soft news again corroborates the potential for such learning online. They found that people were able to receive and accept political information when watching their favorite non-news or current events television shows such as Oprah, even if they tended to avoid such information in more traditional realms (2006). Soft news provides the necessary stimuli to facilitate incidental learning even among those who are intentionally inattentive to any given topic. The effect of such learning in Baum’s work is to increase interest, attention, and consistent voting patterns among inattentive citizens, which are generally considered to be normatively positive in a democratic society. Social Media: Partial Control While we have some understanding of how information flows in a total control environ- ment, and in an absent control environment, social media represents what can be thought of as a partial control information environment. In some ways, exposure to information in social media might be similar to a total control information environment. After all, users choose their own network, opting into relationships or information flows only with those other users they choose to engage with. This strongly resembles a total control information environment, particularly since users may opt out of the information flow at any time. On the other hand, some exposure to information via social media may not be purposive at all. When I “friend” my uncle on Facebook, I do not do so because I anticipate any particular information flow from him, let alone one with which I expect to agree. Rather, there are offline social norms involved with relationship building in social media, suggesting the opt in/opt out process is somewhat more constrained than it may first appear. After opting into an information flow for social reasons, I may be exposed to information that I would not seek out myself, whether for reasons of interest or ideology (that is, my uncle may post things I do not care about, such as fishing, or things with which I disagree, such as offensive political jokes). Even if I dislike this information flow, there are constraints which Opting into Information Flows 7

Authors: Bode, Leticia.
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Baum and Jamison’s work on political learning through soft news again corroborates the
potential for such learning online. They found that people were able to receive and accept
political information when watching their favorite non-news or current events television
shows such as Oprah, even if they tended to avoid such information in more traditional
realms (2006). Soft news provides the necessary stimuli to facilitate incidental learning
even among those who are intentionally inattentive to any given topic. The effect of such
learning in Baum’s work is to increase interest, attention, and consistent voting patterns
among inattentive citizens, which are generally considered to be normatively positive in a
democratic society.
Social Media: Partial Control
While we have some understanding of how information flows in a total control environ-
ment, and in an absent control environment, social media represents what can be thought
of as a partial control information environment. In some ways, exposure to information in
social media might be similar to a total control information environment. After all, users
choose their own network, opting into relationships or information flows only with those
other users they choose to engage with. This strongly resembles a total control information
environment, particularly since users may opt out of the information flow at any time.
On the other hand, some exposure to information via social media may not be purposive
at all. When I “friend” my uncle on Facebook, I do not do so because I anticipate any
particular information flow from him, let alone one with which I expect to agree. Rather,
there are offline social norms involved with relationship building in social media, suggesting
the opt in/opt out process is somewhat more constrained than it may first appear. After
opting into an information flow for social reasons, I may be exposed to information that I
would not seek out myself, whether for reasons of interest or ideology (that is, my uncle may
post things I do not care about, such as fishing, or things with which I disagree, such as
offensive political jokes). Even if I dislike this information flow, there are constraints which
Opting into Information Flows 7

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