What's the Folk Theory? Reasoning About Cyber-Social Systems

37 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2017

See all articles by Megan French

Megan French

Stanford University

Jeff Hancock

Stanford University

Date Written: February 2, 2017

Abstract

The present paper explores people’s folk theories of cyber-social systems by identifying the metaphors people hold and then analyzing them semantically for underlying attitudes and beliefs. In Study 1 (N = 3375) we use a novel method for eliciting metaphors for how people understand the Facebook News Feed and Twitter. In Study 2 (N = 1547) we used factor analysis to aggregate these metaphors into underlying folk theories for both Facebook and Twitter. In Study 3 (N = 1597) we replicate the factor analysis from Study 2 and examine the semantic dimensions for each of the folk theories across these two cyber-social systems, finding that there are four primary folk theories that people hold for the News Feed and Twitter: the rational assistant, the unwanted observer, the transparent platform and the corporate black box. The implications of identifying and understanding these folk theories for these cyber-social systems are discussed.

Suggested Citation

French, Megan and Hancock, Jeff, What's the Folk Theory? Reasoning About Cyber-Social Systems (February 2, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2910571 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2910571

Megan French (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Jeff Hancock

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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