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Information Cascades and Political Activism

With midterms approaching, I figured it would be apt to discuss the effect of information cascades on certain demographics’ voting, namely youths. The advice given in the article focuses on three main points: “Point out when celebrities encourage their fans to be politically active”, “Get your children involved in other ways”, and “Talk about the importance of speaking up.” The article follows each point with a brief explanation of what the advice is intended to invoke. My connection to Networks is the effect that the first two pieces of advice have on youth voting and more specifically, how they vote i.e. which candidates they choose. Let’s just say *in my opinion* this article was a just manual for parents to teach their children how to be influenced by information cascading.

The article’s first piece of advice makes information cascading inevitable. Suppose a celebrity’s (perhaps Taylor Swift) fan group is comprised of a significant population of youth in the US. Anyone who was not going to vote and then heard the celebrity’s promotion, would likely discuss politics with their peers who already decided to vote/have voted and are perhaps more politically aware/active. Then you have individuals who might not only vote, but vote for a candidate they would not have with their private information. Given there is a distinction between herding and information cascading, I stand by my point because I don’t think anybody would arbitrarily/blindly vote for anyone that they did not build a genuine belief in. However, getting to that point might have been heavily influenced by external parties (e.g. the other friends at the concert).

Similarly, getting young adults involved in other ways is very much like celebrities promoting political messages. It follows the same logic and pattern of propagating information and influencing decisions/beliefs of individuals who would have acted differently solely based on their private information. Whether or not this phenomenon is necessarily good or bad is not for me to say. But, this section of the course prompted me to realize how easy it is to think you made a choice independently when it was likely the result of an information cascade.

With that being said, vote!



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October 2018