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Public Opinion Revisited: The propagation of opinions in digital networks

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The aim of this article is to discuss the propagation of opinions expressed on the Internet (digital media matrix) in view of a historical development of public opinion. In order to address that, the article examines the debate concerning public opinion based on the works of Walter Lippmann (1961), Niklas Luhmann (1997; 2000; 2005), Jürgen Habermas (1991; 1997) and Dirk Baecker (2004), whereas the concept of a digital media matrix is discussed together with the theories of Niels Finnemann (2001), David White (1964) and Kurt Lewin (1947). The relationship between media and public opinion is defined by the historical emergence of forms of coding between communication agents, previously comprising of senders and receivers (peer-to-peer communication), broadcasting (mass communication) and networks of nodes (digital communication). The propagation of public opinion is depicted as a form shaped by a network of nodes, therefore suggesting a diagram for the distribution of messages and opinions in digital networks described as ‘netclustering’. The article offers a synthesis of the literature on public opinion to suggest a model for the viral propagation of messages within networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
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Keywords: Internet; digital networks; media matrix; propaganda; public opinion; public sphere

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of São Paulo, Brazil

Publication date: March 20, 2012

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