Melissa Cantrell: “For many of us, online communities are a space to connect with like-minded individuals with similar interests and societal views. During extended lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, online communities have proven crucial for people to access information and share experiences. One such place for people to connect is through Reddit, a network of online communities that can be based on people’s interests, experiences, professions, local neighborhoods and regions.
"But what happens when communities isolate into so-called 'information bubbles?'
“Jason Shuo Zhang is a recent CU Boulder graduate of the Computer Science program and current postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Humans and Machines at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. He, along with other researchers from CU Boulder, have been studying responses to the pandemic through Reddit forums.
In particular, they have been studying the emergence of the communities on Reddit r/China_flu and r/Coronavirus and how activities in these communities have diverged, with one becoming more extremist and the other not, due to its heavy moderation. They also studied how these users have spilled over into other Reddit communities, spreading information or disinformation to different groups. The team posted their findings on arXiv.org, Cornell University’s open access preprint archive for scholarly articles in the sciences."
Jason Shuo Zhang: "Usually, our preprint article would go through a very rigorous review process that can take months. But COVID-19 is a fast-moving global health crisis, and in terms of getting research out there, we need to be moving fast."
MC: “For researchers like Zhang, providing open access to timely research through preprint archives allows that research to be distributed to the community while it is still most relevant and impactful, and also serves as a mechanism for allowing other researchers, and in this case, platforms like Reddit to offer feedback on researchers’ findings.”