Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Tweeting Economists: Antisocial in the socials?

Della Giusta, Marina and Vukadinovic-Greetham, Danica and Jaworska, Sylvia (2018): Tweeting Economists: Antisocial in the socials?

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Abstract

Economists have often been accused of adopting superior and distant attitudes (Fourcade, Ollion and Algan, 2015). This attributed stance has been variously linked to both poor understanding and traction of economics with the general public, the failure to generate realistic predictions and prescriptions (Coyle, 2012; Bresser-Pereira, 2014), and the lack of diversity in the profession (Crawford et al., 2018; Stevenson and Zlotnick, 2018; Bayer and Rouse, 2016). In this piece we focus specifically on Twitter communications by economists to investigate the ability of economists to fruitfully engage with the public in these networks and the attitudes their language use betrays. We compare economists to scientists, gathering data from the Twitter accounts of both the top 25 economists and 25 scientists as identified by IDEAS and sciencemag, who account for the lion’s share of the Twitter following, collecting a total of 127,593 tweets written between December 2008 and April 2017. Using both network and language analysis our paper finds that although both groups communicate mostly with people outside their profession, economists tweet less, mention fewer people and have fewer Twitter conversations with strangers than a comparable group of experts in the sciences, and sentiment analysis shows they are also more distant. The language analysis of differences in register (a higher register is generally less accessible and thus more distanced) finds that economists use a higher number of complex words, specific names and abbreviations than scientists, and differences in pronoun use reveal they are also less inclusive, all of which adds to distancing.

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