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Collaborative contribution of news-related user-generated content in social media: the role and impact of gatekeepers

Li, Ang and Farzan, Rosta and Lin, YR and He, Daqing and Keegan, Brian and Thom, Jenn (2022) Collaborative contribution of news-related user-generated content in social media: the role and impact of gatekeepers. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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People have traditionally relied on mass media to seek updated information about breaking news events by turning on TV, listening to radio, or checking newspaper. Nowadays with the advantage of social technologies, there has been a significant shift in ways that people gather and communicate news, and increasingly user-generated content in social media has become an important source of news. Prior literature has studied the news reporting process in conventional mass media, and found that gatekeepers play an important role in the process. Traditionally, gatekeepers are newsrooms editors or journalists who control the information through selecting, filtering or crafting what gets published to the public, and thus they have a unique power in spreading of information and influencing audience’ perspective. In contrast, the process of how user-generated content are created by contributors in social media platforms is different in terms of who are able to contribute, and what is the collaboration process of creation. Specifically, user-generated content in social media is usually free to be created or edited by almost anyone. Moreover, many social media platforms such as Wikipedia enable collaboration among contributors, which can facilitate and allow collective determination of what content is presented to the public. At the same time, although everyone can contribute to social media, a majority of users on social media platforms only act as passive information consumers. In practice, not everyone and not every perspective is represented equally -- there are still certain users who are more powerful in determining the content that the general audience read in social media. In fact, there are social media contributors who play the role similar as gatekeepers in traditional mass media. However, there is a little knowledge about who social media gatekeepers are, how to identify them, and most importantly how do they impact news content production and dissemination.
My PhD dissertation aims to answer these questions, and I intend to uncover the gatekeeping process in social media around news events across two different social media platforms: Twitter and Wikipedia. Each of these platforms represent a different degree of collaboration process, moderation process, and different community norms. I first propose an actionable definition of social media gatekeepers backed by literature on news reporting in social media and traditional mass media. I then present two case studies of identifying and understanding gatekeepers on both Twitter and Wikipedia at scale. The results of my mixed research approach highlight that, unlike the general users, social media gatekeepers are often self-determining citizen journalists who manage their media presentation strategically. The results also demonstrate that gatekeepers tend to exhibit behavior mostly in accordance with the journalism norms: they contribute to and guard the quality of the user-generated content. Moreover, the results also highlights the role of collaboration in the gatekeeping process: gatekeepers' effects in improving the quality of user-generated content rely on the collaboration among gatekeepers themselves as well as other users. My dissertation presents the first piece of research on quantitatively identifying social media gatekeepers on a relatively large scale as well as examining their impact on news sharing and production.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Li, Anganl125@pitt.eduanl125
Farzan, Rostarfarzan@pitt.eduRFARZAN
Lin, YRYURULIN@pitt.eduYURULIN0000-0002-8497-3015
He, Daqingdah44@pitt.eduDAH440000-0002-4645-8696
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFarzan, Rostarfarzan@pitt.eduRFARZAN
Committee MemberLin, Yu-RuYURULIN@pitt.eduYURULIN0000-0002-8497-3015
Committee MemberHe, Daqingdah44@pitt.eduDAH440000-0002-4645-8696
Committee MemberKeegan,
Committee MemberThom,
Date: 6 September 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 7 December 2021
Approval Date: 6 September 2022
Submission Date: 1 July 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 126
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Computing and Information > Information Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: user generated content, social media, gatekeepers
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2022 20:34
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2022 20:34

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