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The Internet’s Influence on Information Cascades

In the age of the internet information is very accessible, so it spreads very quickly and easily in a short period of time. As such, it is not uncommon to see people expressing their opinions through a variety of media and trying to convince others to take their side in a matter. The hope is that viewers will be convinced of the creator’s opinion and through word of mouth, discussion, and publicity, an information cascade in favor of this stance¬†will spread throughout the populace.

Such a purpose was trying to be achieved by Tom Scocca in his article detailing how overly complicated and outdated Microsoft Word is as a modern word processor. He begins by qualifying that Microsoft Word was useful before the internet age. To the readers, they are not immediately being chided for being in the wrong in the eyes of the author. This prevents them from going completely on the defense and stopping immediately from reading the article. From there though, Scocca begins to attack what he believes to be unnecessary features that Word began to introduce such as AutoCorrect and smart quotes, things that most readers probably see as normal, painting them in a very negative light. This makes readers question their word processor choice and starts to convince people to consider alternatives, regardless of they fully agree with Scocca or not. This introduction of doubt causes people to sway in their stance, allowing for the buildup of Scocca’s opinion in the readers’ minds.

After mocking Microsoft Word’s presence in the modern age, Scocca goes on to mention his proposed simpler word processors that are easier to use and are a better fit to the needs of Web users. If readers agree with this argument, they become the initial “users” or proponents of this opinion within society. From there, these people will bring up this topic to their friends and perhaps convince them of the same opinion without having to present the original article. If it rationally makes sense to a person, they will change their minds to that opinion without having to do further research, causing the first wave of an information cascade. Once people start seeing this new trend, they may also join the same boat and prolong the cascade.

Since articles like Scocca’s are more accessible online to the general populace, it is much easier to create these initial proponents such that an information cascade will start sooner and spread faster than before. However, since it’s incredibly easy to cause a cascade from such little information, it is also about as easy to overturn that opinion if the scenario is presented in a different light. This is unsurprising since a person in a cascade is convinced of a new opinion when presented with very little information to begin with. With a multitude of opinions that exist on the internet, people’s stances on issues and certain aspects of life seem to be changing constantly. With online resources, information cascades are highly prone to happen, though perhaps ebbing in and out over the course of time.

~Kairi700

Resources:

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2012/04/microsoft_word_is_cumbersome_inefficient_and_obsolete_it_s_time_for_it_to_die_.2.html

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