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Professor Zhao Xinshu Interpreting the Selective Spiral in the Big Data

Professor Zhao Xinshu, the chair professor of Hong Kong Baptist University, also the lifetime professor of the University of North Carolina was invited to our school and presented a lecture about “ selective spiral—communication theory and quantification analysis” on 24th March.

Professor Zhao Xinshu reckoned that the classic communication theory should be integrated and innovated in the big data era. The contemporary information communication process could be concluded to six Rs which are Release, Receive, Relay, React, Recycle and Result. In this process, people’s behavior of releasing, receiving and relaying embodies the feature of selective spiral which contains all the traditional effect theories. 

The selective release theory contains agenda setting, cultivation theory and frame theory and so on. The theory of selective reception and selective response can be interpreted by using confirmation bias, selective exposure and usage and satisfaction. The gatekeeper theory exactly explains the selective relay. While the hypotheses of the spiral of silence, knowledge gaps and the diffusion of innovations describe the process of recycle. 

The feature of selective spiral is constant repetition and the spend gets faster and faster, also, the effect will be enlarged and the profound effect to the society could be more than one could expect. For example, the phenomenon of polarization might happen. An individual tend to strengthen their tendencies and object to the opposed views on the release, reception, response and relay. Although humans have more selections, but the nature of human causes the bias in choosing information and the differentiation and division of the society, thus threatening the freedom of speech and social democracy.

The thought of determinism should be abandoned in understanding this theory by Professor Zhao Xinshu. Determinism is about the relationship between one point and another, but the process of the spiral is more important.

The process analysis is more important in future communication research. Although ot could be difficult. But the selective spiral provides a theory frame and the concrete issue should be combined.      

He exemplified with his two quantified analyses. One is to research how the audience rating of spring gala varies between the north and south of China. The data of 2017 displayedhe audience ratings are respectively 2% and 5% in Hainan and Guangdong Province. But in the three northeast provinces of China, it was up to 90%. But in the year of 2000, it was only 25% higher.

Why is the gap being larger and how it forms?  Professor Zhao Xinshu thought the spring gala tends to be held in the north because of the temperature and the site. And this bias becomes more obvious in the 35years. And the effect is recycled.

And the relevance which is based on the analysis of news release, relay and click rate of the Headlines Today. Copying the research of agenda setting, the study selected the number of news release of 264countries and districts as the media setting, while the click rate and relay rate were as the audience setting. The study showed that the news release rate and the average relay rate were in high positive correlation. And the ratio was 0.95. While the correlation between the release rate and average click rate was close to 0. 

The conclusion couldn’t be explained by the agenda setting but the selective spiral. All the release is selective and prone to the subjects which would get the highest click rate. If the information market provides more than what is needed, the click rate lowers, and vice versa.(text by Lu Weijing, picture by Zhu Min)