RESEARCH

THE EFFECT OF COMMUNICATION NETWORKS ON CULTURAL CHANGE IN ORGANIZATIONS: EVIDENCE FROM ALT-RIGHT ECHO CHAMBERS

Organizations seeking to change their cultures face a problem: changing culture directly is difficult. However, culture is deeply intertwined with other organizational features, especially informal organizational social networks. I theorize that changes to network “echo” (reflective within-group interaction) affect culture through the channel of language and communication. Since language is both an aspect of culture and the medium through which broader cultural priorities are communicated, changing the extent of network echo affects which cultural priorities organizational members observe around them and in turn what language these organizational members use themselves. I test this theory in the setting of online communities. Inducing cultural change in online communities and digital organizations is a key problem for platforms and in digitization policy as concerns mount about echo chambers that foment toxic cultures. I leverage a large-scale natural experiment on the platform Reddit to test the theory. The natural experiment shocked the networks of an Alt-Right community, transforming it from a high-echo network to a low-echo network. Across several ways of measuring language use, including measures derived from natural language processing techniques, I find that this shock causes a decrease in Alt-Right language imported to other communities by Alt-Right members (including a decrease in hate speech). This result overturns the conventional wisdom that breaking up echo chambers will simply displace problematic conversations.

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CULTURAL STORAGE: THE ORGANIZATIONAL SHIP OF THESEUS

We investigate the ways that culture, and especially language, can encode organizational priorities and enable organizational memory. Culture's ability to encode priorities creates differences between organizations in which types of knowledge can be efficiently communicated. Like an organizational Ship of Theseus, we ask how much of the language of the original members remains when they have all been replaced. We find that by iteratively replacing every member of the organization, a substantial percentage of the updated language reflects the founding members’ priorities. Common language is a type of limited codifiability that makes certain (possibly tacit) routines and situations more efficient to describe within an organization. We test the model using data from a popular online strategic communication cooperation game. By exploiting a panel of partially overlapping teams, we find that players bring communicative routines with them when they join a new team, and are able to transfer this knowledge to the new team.

WORKERS OF THE (SMALL) WORLD, UNITE: EVIDENCE FROM ONLINE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AT THE DIGITAL WATER COOLER

Online organizing allows social movements to coordinate enormous groups at high speeds, but has been criticized for its inability to sustain interest and enact real world action. In this article, we argue that the design of online organizing spaces is crucial to an online social movement’s ability to translate to real impact. In particular, we argue that geographically-dedicated subspaces that correspond to real-world localities facilitate the creation of small-world networks, characterized by a high degree of clustering and short path links between nodes. These online small-world networks engender robust social connections that link physical geography to digital geography, thereby enabling offline action. We empirically illustrate our predictions in the context of the labor movement in ride-sharing, analyzing over 3 million posts from the largest online forum for ride-sharing drivers. Using NLP and network analysis, we detail the conditions that allowed a particular city, Los Angeles, to become a leader in the ride-sharing labor organizing movement.

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PEERING INTO CAREER CHOICE: PEER EFFECTS, ETHICAL HOMOPHILY AND SOCIAL PERSUASION

We seek to unpack the mechanisms by which social learning operates, focusing specifically on ethical homophily. Using the random assignment of MBA students into learning teams, we evaluate the impact of prior industry composition of learning teams on students’ industry choices following the MBA program and find that peer effects are in general negligible, except in the case of ethical homophily (measured as LDA-based topical similarity on an ethical dilemma essay) where peer effects on industry choice become large and significant. The proposed mechanism is that ethical homophily makes communication either more efficient by means of a common language around ethics and values, or more persuasive because those values are shared.

FAKE NEWS VIA INTENTIONAL DISTRACTION

I develop a formal model of fake news as bias of the relative precision of signals rather than bias of the signal means. Under this type of bias, Bayesian synthesis of signals can be biased (compared to the true model) even though none of the individual signal means are biased. This model can help explain the "white noise" Twitter strategy of Mexican presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and his PRI party during the 2010 presidential election. The PRI hired a small army of Twitter trolls to manage the impression of the candidate on social media. But while they were not actively hostile to the candidacy, neither did they promote the candidacy directly. Instead, they used a "white noise" strategy that magnified the noise during times of particularly bad news about Peña Nieto (e.g. claiming Justin Bieber had died). This type of fake news is realistically possible only in the wild west of digital information diffusion.

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POSITIONING, STATUS, AND QUALITY IN A DYNAMIC INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT

I explore how firms should position themselves when the market cannot readily discern the desirability of their offerings. While there are some industries where the marketplace may have perfect information about product desirability, for others the marketplace may have at best a hazy or biased belief about desirability. Firms differ in status and in customer beliefs about desirability, and differences in status or beliefs may also drive positioning choices if these positioning choices have the power to affect beliefs. We begin by modeling this problem as an incomplete information game. Our formal results reveal how information quality and costs impact firm positioning choices and industry-level positioning heterogeneity, and how these change over time in reaction to changes in consumer access to information about desirability. In ongoing work, we test our predictions by leveraging shocks to the cost of information stemming from the staggered UK broadband rollout.

CLASHING FASHIONS AND INSTITUTIONS: MID-LIFE UNCERTAINTY IN INNOVATION DIFFUSION

We use theories of fashions and institutions to examine whether, why, and when over five-hundred organizational techniques persisted relatively permanently or disappeared relatively transiently. In Neoinstitutional theory, the theory of fashions in organizational techniques tends to explain the causes of these techniques’ relative transience. By contrast, the theory of institutions in organizational techniques tends to explain the causes of these techniques’ relative persistence. By using natural language processing techniques, we examine how writings about the techniques during their upswing can predict whether that technique will persist or fade during their precarious mid-life period. Moreover, by examining the different ways that each type of proccess is written about, we gain insight into the processes of fashions and institutionalization.

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