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Research Development Seminar Series: Yongren Shi

April 19, 2023
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
008 Public Policy Research Building

Unpacking the Social Mechanisms Giving Rise to Radical Misogynist Ideology in an Online Community

Recent instances of mass shootings have been linked to individuals who identified as members of nascent digital communities dedicated to misogynist and sexist ideology. This study is focused on understanding the process of radicalization of such ideologies within a Reddit community that emerged as a hub for propagating extremist views across other forums until its eventual shutdown by the platform. Taking it as a case study, we traced the evolution of the community in its whole lifespan, and analyzed the progression of radical content published by ingroup members and outsiders in threaded conversations. We evaluated four social mechanisms that may potentially drive the radicalization of content over time: prelearning, selective exit, imitation learning, and conversational reinforcement.

Our results reveal that both ingroup members and outsiders have progressively assimilated the deviant ideology over time by engaging in conversations, albeit to varying degrees. Among the four mechanisms evaluated, conversational reinforcement played a significant role in the transformation of the discussion, leading to a significant increase in the utilization of deviant content and a decrease in constructive dialogues regarding issues and challenges faced by the group.

Yongren Shi, assistant professor of sociology, is a computational sociologist working in the areas of social networks, organizations, social psychology, and culture. The foundation of his research is the sociological study of human behavior and group dynamics. He uses extensively large-scale digital trace data and a wide range of computational methods, including network analysis, computational textual analysis, agent-based computational models, machine learning, online experiments, and sequence analysis. His work has appeared in numerous research outlets and was supported by research grants from the National Science Foundation. Yongren earned a PhD in sociology from Cornell University in 2016. His dissertation examined why seemingly apolitical issues, such as art and sciences, became the new battleground for culture wars. After graduation, he spent two years as a post-doctoral associate at Yale Institute for Network Science, where he studied social networks in rural communities in Honduras.

This event is free and open to the public; no registration is required. Lunch will be provided for those on-site, and a Zoom option will be also be available.

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