Diversity of Political Conversation on the Internet: Users' Perspectives

Authors

  • Jennifer Stromer-Galley

    Corresponding author
    1. Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University at Albany, SUNY. Her research interests include communication technology and democracy and political communication. Her current work investigates why people participate in political chat spaces, message boards, and Usenet. Recent publications of hers can be found in the Journal of Communication and Javnost/The Public.
    Search for more papers by this author

Address: Department of Communication, Social Science 340, University at Albany, Albany, NY 12222. Telephone: 518-442-4879 fax: 518-442-3884.

Abstract

This essay provides an account of the perspectives of users of online political discussion spaces. In-depth interviews with 69 people who participate in online political discussion groups were conducted. The interviews suggest that they perceive themselves to be interacting with persons who differ from them. They appreciate and enjoy the diversity of people and opinions they encounter online. Although some interview participants expressed dislike at encountering racist or xenophobic perspectives, others appreciated the broad range of opinions they encountered. These findings lend support to the view that people appreciate the diversity of persons and viewpoints they encounter in their chosen discussion spaces. Information provided by interviewees did not offer much support for the homophily perspective–that people seek out like-minded others online–which raises questions about the accuracy of that perspective in characterizing people's online communication behavior.

Ancillary