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Title: Global connectivity, information diffusion, and the role of multilingual users in user-generated content platforms
Author: Hale, Scott A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5354 2911
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Internet content and Internet users are becoming more linguistically diverse as more people speaking different languages come online and produce content on user-generated content platforms. Several platforms have emerged as truly global platforms with users speaking many different languages and coming from around the world. It is now possible to study human behavior on these platforms using the digital trace data the platforms make available about the content people are authoring. Network literature suggests that people cluster together by language, but also that there is a small average path length between any two people on most Internet platforms (including two speakers of different languages). If so, multilingual users may play critical roles as bridges or brokers on these platforms by connecting clusters of monolingual users together across languages. The large differences in the content available in different languages online underscores the importance of such roles. This thesis studies the roles of multilingual users and platform design on two large, user-generated content platforms: Wikipedia and Twitter. It finds that language has a strong role structuring each platform, that multilingual users do act as linguistic bridges subject to certain limitations, that the size of a language correlates with the roles its speakers play in cross-language connections, and that there is a correlation between activity and multilingualism. In contrast to the general understanding in linguistics of high levels of multilingualism offline, this thesis finds relatively low levels of multilingualism on Twitter (11%) and Wikipedia (15%). The findings have implications for both platform design and social network theory. The findings suggest design strategies to increase multilingualism online through the identification and promotion of multilingual starter tasks, the discovery of related other-language information, and the promotion of user choice in linguistic filtering. While weak-ties have received much attention in the social networks literature, cross-language ties are often not distinguished from same-language weak ties. This thesis finds that cross-language ties are similar to same-language weak ties in that both connect distant parts of the network, have limited bandwidth, and yet transfer a non-trivial amount of information when considered in aggregate. At the same time, cross-language ties are distinct from same-language weak ties for the purposes of information diffusion. In general cross-language ties are smaller in number than same-language ties, but each cross-language tie may convey more diverse information given the large differences in the content available in different languages and the relative ease with which a multilingual speaker may access content in multiple languages compared to a monolingual speaker.
Supervisor: Meyer, Eric T.; González-Bailón, Sandra Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Linguistics ; Computational Linguistics ; Natural Language Processing. ; Computer science (mathematics) ; Sociology ; Technology and Applied Sciences ; Internet research ; Information Diffusion ; Human-Computer Interaction ; Multilingualism