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In this research study, we examined the relationship between the degree of controversy (referred to as controversiality henceforth) of subject matter and the amount of conversation generated by the subject matter. In the first step of the research project, we analyzed online conversations. Our data set included data on the attributes of 207 news articles linked to Topix.com. Our analysis of these articles indicated that on average, articles of medium controversy generated the largest volume of conversation when using the number of comments as the metric. These findings led us to create a survey to determine if these results would be replicated in a laboratory study. In the survey, the likelihood of sharing the article was designated as the metric for the volume of conversation. Survey results showed that people were more likely to share articles of high controversy, which is contrary to conclusions drawn from our analysis of data from Topix.com. The findings are applicable to any writers who disseminate information and opinions.
Date Posted: 23 July 2012