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Capturable Curiosity for Civic Engagement

Mapping the Latino digital landscape to build a culture of civic engagement online

Equis works to create a home for ideas, innovation, and leadership development to increase Latino electoral engagement and build long-term cultural influence.

Equis wants to embed a culture of civic engagement into the internet to ensure Latinos encounter accurate and timely information, in Spanish, during the course of their normal internet usage, so they can make informed decisions about the world around them.

In this project, Harmony Labs explored the search behavior of U.S. based Latinos in order to support Equis’ goal to understand what civic engagement looks like online, how we might bridge the gap between day-to-day curiosity and long term civic engagement, and how we might convert that curiosity into civic participation.

Harmony Labs utilized its opt-in panel data of online behavior from 300,000+ people and limited the target audience to people who self-identified as “Hispanic,” which totaled approximately 90,000 people. The search data spanned 16 months between June 2020 and December 2021, conducted by participants who identified as “Hispanic.” In total, there were approximately 11.5 million searches from Latino participants in this sample. All of these searches are real.

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Currently, life online is for errands, not civic engagement.

We interact with policy and government all the time, but it’s in search of things we need, everyday interactions with our communities, our government, and our safety nets. People are looking for information about things like rent, stocks, money, and cars.

Search destinations tell us about search intent.

By pairing searches and the destination sites they landed on, we gained insights into the diverse curiosities of Latinos, revealing key aspects about their daily interests, how they explore these curiosities, and the types of answers they seek. This approach provided a deeper understanding of the Latino community’s information needs and search behaviors.

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Info iconHover over a constellation for more info

Search queries that end up on the same destination sites create patterns we call “constellations.”

Local Living Constellation


Average Daily Reach

26%

Top Keywords

fl, tx, ca, job, county

Example Query

Work at home jobs.”

Anchor Domains

facebook.com, zillow.com, yelp.com, indeed.com, realtor.com.

Ask an Expert Constellation


Average Daily Reach

18%

Top Keywords

follow, describe, statement, choice, answer

Example Query

Which statement describes a central characteristic of social psychology.”

Anchor Domains

quizlet.com, brainly.com, quora.com, coursehero.com, nih.gov.

Popular Culture & News Constellation


Average Daily Reach

22%

Top Keywords

trump, news, movie, covid, 2020

Example Query

President trump administration.”

Anchor Domains

wikipedia.org, imdb.com, msn.com, nytimes.com, instagram.com.

Making Ends Meet Constellation


Average Daily Reach

6%

Top Keywords

credit, bank, union, tax, card

Example Query

Maximum amount i can write off on taxes for health insurance premiums in.”

Anchor Domains

irs.gov, investopedia.com, bankofamerica.com, ssa.gov, intuit.com.

Spanish Language Living Constellation


Average Daily Reach

8%

Top Keywords

dios, verse, letra, bible, spanish

Example Query

Dios te y bendiga versiculos.”

Anchor Domains

blogspot.com, biblegateway.com, spanishdict.com, slideshare.net, uscis.gov.

Music & Gaming Constellation


Average Daily Reach

37%

Top Keywords

mod, minecraft, lyric, download, game

Example Query

How to get minecraft.”

Anchor Domains

youtube.com, fandom.com, reddit.com, microsoft.com, genius.com.

Lifestyle Constellation


Average Daily Reach

8%

Top Keywords

recipe, chicken, cook, dog, food

Example Query

Low carb breakfast lunch and dinner recipes.”

Anchor Domains

healthline.com, webmd.com, mayoclinic.org, medicalnewstoday.com, allrecipes.com.

Constellations show us the shape of the internet.

They can tell us about people’s specific information needs, what people are curious about, and where opportunities exist to capture people’s attention in meaningful ways.

Searches usually serve immediate needs. Most people using search engines aren’t diving deep into civically relevant content. To really get people involved in civic life, we need to meet them where their curiosity naturally leads them.

Figure with ball waitingFigure holding ball

We call this capturable curiosity.

Capturable curiosity emerges when there is a mix of immediate relevance (the search is about something directly impacting the searcher) and civic engagement opportunities (beyond immediate needs like renewing a driver’s license). But not all searches are capturable.

People are curious about the things currently affecting them or changing in their lives. This is why searches for more abstract topics, such as “healthcare policy,” are not common.

Navigational QueryDestination
Comcast Email Loginxfinity.com
Square Spacesquarespace.com
Chase loginchase.com
vs
Capturable QueryDestination
Election day predictionfivethirtyeight.com
Examen de ciudadaniauscis.gov
Need to know hire health insurancehealthcare.gov

It’s not that people aren’t curious about those topics, but rather that their current needs often trigger what they’re curious about at the moment.

Let’s look at the constellation “Popular Culture and News” and the anchor site Wikipedia as one example.

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GlobeWikipedia

27% of all Popular Culture and News searches end up on Wikipedia.

This is far greater than any other destination, making Wikipedia perhaps the most important opportunity for engaging people with civic information in America.

Most content that uses capturable curiosity should feel concrete and immediate, not abstract.

We can use capturable curiosity to reach people where they are already landing after searches. It’s about informing people after catching them in real moments of intent.

It can be as simple as adding a paragraph on an existing Wikipedia page.

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    In 2022, Bad Bunny further highlighted social issues in Puerto Rico with the release of his music video “El Apagón,” which included an 18-minute documentary titled “Aquí Vive Gente.” Directed by journalist Bianca Graulau, the documentary critically examines the socioeconomic challenges faced by Puerto Ricans, including the impact of economic policies and the displacement of local communities. This project represents a significant step in Bad Bunny’s ongoing activism, using his platform to bring attention to crucial issues affecting his homeland.

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    Durante la presidencia de Donald Trump, la formación de una mayoría conservadora en la Corte Suprema de EE. UU. llevó a llamados liberales para aumentar el número de jueces. En abril de 2021, los demócratas de la Cámara propusieron un proyecto de ley para incrementar los asientos de la Corte de nueve a trece, pero no recibió amplio apoyo y no fue presentado al pleno por la presidenta Nancy Pelosi. El presidente Joe Biden formó una comisión en enero de 2021 para evaluar reformas a la Corte Suprema. El informe final de la comisión en diciembre de 2021 discutió, pero no tomó una postura sobre, la expansión de la corte. La constitucionalidad de tal expansión sigue siendo debatida.

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    Desde 1800, se han presentado más de 700 propuestas en el Congreso para reformar o eliminar el sistema. Los proponentes de estas propuestas argumentaron que el sistema de colegio electoral no proporciona una elección democrática directa, otorga una ventaja a los estados menos poblados y permite que un candidato gane la presidencia sin obtener la mayoría de los votos. Ninguna de estas propuestas ha recibido la aprobación de dos tercios del Congreso y tres cuartos de los estados requeridos para enmendar la Constitución.

Embedding civic culture in everyday internet use requires capturing moments when users are actively seeking information and guiding them to content that not only addresses their immediate needs, but also broadens their understanding of the civic implications of their interests.

key finding

Instead of creating new web destinations, focus on enhancing existing anchor sites with information that integrates civic engagement.

Civic engagement strategy online means reaching users in moments when there’s an opportunity to direct them to content that both meets their immediate needs and allows them to address broader curiosity about the civic context of their interests.

The internet has evolved from a wide, sparsely distributed network of specialty sites and blogs into a collection of massive anchor sites and platforms. These sites exert substantial gravitational pull on all traffic, including search traffic.

Different constellations can carry different civic issues.

Now that you have an understanding of the overall shape of the internet, explore how and where important issues show up across the various constellations.

Voting


Average Daily Reach

0.64%

Popular Culture & News

55%

Ask an Expert

28%

Local Living

12%

Health Care


Average Daily Reach

1.17%

Local Living

37%

Ask an Expert

35%

Lifestyle

15%

Immigration


Average Daily Reach

0.27%

Ask an Expert

35%

Spanish-Language Living

34%

Popular Culture & News

16%

Unemployment


Average Daily Reach

0.41%

Local Living

63%

Popular Culture & News

20%

Making Ends Meet

10%

Disability


Average Daily Reach

0.09%

Making Ends Meet

31%

Ask an Expert

36%

Local Living

24%

Rent


Average Daily Reach

0.98%

Local Living

87%

Ask an Expert

4%

Popular Culture & News

3%

Education


Average Daily Reach

0.36%

Ask an Expert

57%

Local Living

25%

Popular Culture & News

10%

Climate Change


Average Daily Reach

0.06%

Ask an Expert

80%

Popular Culture & News

18%

Local Living

5%
  • Voting
  • Health Care
  • Immigration
  • Unemployment
  • Disability
  • Rent
  • Education
  • Climate Change
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Issue-specific Opportunities

From capturable curiosity to opportunities

Explore potential opportunities for civic engagement in top issues across various constellations. Flip over a card to learn more about where your issue shows up, the kind of content you might make, and how you might make it.

Voting

Popular Culture and News

Illustration for Voting
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Opportunity

 

Where is your issue?

Voting in Popular Culture and News is all about the big picture: what has happened, and what’s coming next for the U.S. as a whole.

Example Searches

who voted on civil rights act of 1963 → wikipedia.org

how many days until we vote for president → 270towin.com

What can you make?

Written content like opeds, wiki edits, and press strategy including press releases and coordinating with local and national press desks.

How can you make it?

Lots of searches concern more than just the events of today. Keep voting content evergreen, but ready when interest surges due to current events (like elections).

Voting

Local Living

Illustration for Voting
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Opportunity

 

Where is your issue?

Voting in Local Living is all about how to get it done. Questions are about who, where, when and how.

Example Searches

register to vote in texas → votetexas.gov

when can i vote → usa.gov

WHAT can you make?

Referrals and relationships. Local Living is all about small but trusted, local sources of information like Facebook groups or local government websites.

How can you make it?

Connect the dots. Search in English for information about how, where, and when to vote. If there is already plain language information in the language your audience prefers on the sites that pop up, start sharing the links. If there’s not, reach out and start a conversation about translation or accessibility.

Health Care

Local Living

Click to flip

Opportunity

 

Where is your issue?

Healthcare in local living is about getting insurance and care and about getting jobs in the industry.

Example Searches

access health insurance → azahcccs.gov

covid testing near me now → carenow.com

florida department of health license verification → floridahealth.gov

What can you make?

Referrals and relationships. Local living is a network of small institutional sites from governments and, in this case, insurance providers. Ensuring that this information is searchable and accessible in the preferred language is a top priority.

How can you make it?

Get into the network. Search for information about getting insurance, getting care, and getting healthcare jobs. If the information is sparse or inaccurate, organize to create incentives for institutions to serve your population.

Immigration

Spanish Language and Living

Click to flip

Opportunity

 

Where is your issue?

English and Spanish language searches for immigration information cluster together in a constellationwith government sites and private sector immigration software and services.

Example Searches

requisitos para la ciudadania → abogado.com form for us citizenship application → us-immigration.com

What can you make?

More support for families trying to choose partners to navigate the system.

HOW can you make it?

USCIS.gov is an important destination, but many users are looking for help from lawyers and software. Publish or amplify guidance for choosing and paying for effective immigration help.

Unemployment

Local Living

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Opportunity

 

Where is your issue?

Requests for information about unemployment benefits go to government websites, but local living is also all about finding that next job.

Example Searches

request unemployment benefits → uimn.org

2nd shift automotive mechanic jobs near me → monster.com

WHAT can you make?

Accessible information about how to get unemployment benefits and especially about what to do when the process gets stuck.

HOW can you make it?

Review information about benefits processing especially about timelines and adjudication on local government websites. If it’s not available in plain language in every preferred language, reach out to local officials and offer to help. Organize to create incentives as necessary.

Disability

Ask An Expert

Click to flip

Opportunity

 

WHERE is your issue?

This is where people seek out information about what disabilities are, especially in the context of school work.

Example Searches

autism parent training iep goals → autism-society.org

which of the following is not a possible sign of a learning disability as mentioned in the segment → quizlet.com

What can you make?

More access to information about how to understand and navigate the world with a disability.

How can you make it?

Lots of good information already exists on the sites that capture this curiosity like autismspeaks.org. Users often seek information about specific disabilities or about how to create Individal Educational Plans (IEPs). Partner with advocacy groups to create in-language versions of their guidelines.

Disability

Making Ends Meet

Click to flip

Opportunity

 

Where is your issue?

In this constellation, disability is associated with financial federal benefits.

Example Searches

disability report in taxes → ssa.gov

at what age does disability stop and social security start → disability-benefits-help.org

What can you make?

Plain language information in the audiences’ preferred language about how to choose help navigating the system.

How can you make it?

ssa.gov is an important destination, but many users are looking for help from lawyers and software. Publish or amplify guidance for choosing and paying for effective disability help.

Rent

Local Living

Click to flip

Opportunity

 

Where is your issue?

Some requests for help, and plenty of searching for a home to rent.

Example Searches

i need help wit rent → ct.gov

fully furnished apartment for rent in sinhgad road → trovit.co.in

What can you make?

There is no shortage of rental listings and even information about rental assistance, but it’s rarely in plain language or in Spanish

How can you make it?

Advocate with the big companies for in-language support (zillow.com has Spanish language support!), and with governments to make information and forms simple and easy to understand.

Education

Ask An Expert

Click to flip

Opportunity

 

Where is your issue?

This is a constellation where people look up homework answers, so “education” here comes up in the context of education about education.

Example Searches

most colonists placed a high value on education true or false → quizlet.com

what was one negative consequence of the british raje28099s rule in india sanitation and public health continued to suffer the legal system saw few modern improvements only a few thousand indians got a higher education civil servants were segregate → brainly.com

WHAT can you make?

The use case of homework help is niche—it only applies to some users—but it’s huge in terms of volume. Create support for students looking for more than what’s in the textbook

How can you make it?

The opportunity here is for curriculum experts to supplement their textbook and teacher coaching work with Brainly and Quizlet support.

Education

Spanish Language Living

Click to flip

Opportunity

 

Where is your issue?

When searches are in Spanish, they often (but not always) end up on Spanish-language websites, so people searching for disability help sometimes end up in this ecosystem.

Example Searches

que tengo que hacer para reclamar el disability en usa → campmanyabogados.com

disability por enfermedad → campmanyabogados.com

What can you make?

Connections between Spanish-language searchers and unbiased information and connections between those searchers and resources.

How can you make it?

Try searching in Spanish for information about how to get support, and make sure both public and private resources are available. If there’s a gap, consider advocating for existing resources like ssa.gov or advocate lawyers to optimize their own SEO to draw this traffic.

Climate Change

Pop Culture and News

Click to flip

Opportunity

 

WHERE is your issue?

Climate change here shows up in major national news outlets as a matter of international policy or politics.

Example Searches

has global warming slowed down since covid 19 → bloomberg.com

what country has the most climate change → bbc.com

china and climate change → time.com

WHAT can you make?

Quality information about where climate change is happening, what climate change is happening, who is responsible for climate action, and how those global powers are doing.

HOW can you make it?

Op eds and good old fashioned press strategy will help Latinos get what they want here. Keeping the information fresh is important in this constellation where people go to learn about what’s changing now and what’s important.

Your Card Here

Click to flip

Have an idea of how to use capturable curiosity for future civic engagement?

Get In Touch

06. Key Takeaways

Embedding a civic culture in everyday internet usage means reaching more people where they already are.

  1. SEO will not yield significant benefits for civic engagement online

    The internet already has a shape that has grown to address people’s existing curiosity. New destinations distract users from the platforms and outlets they trust.

  2. Ensure users are still able to get the information they want

    Audiences still need to to access answers to the questions they have in the language they speak. Intervention should meet these needs, not replace them.

  3. Align with existing pathways

    Aligning your strategy with existing online pathways through which your content naturally attracts attention. Consider this a collaborative effort with a platform rather than a forceful push.

Have an idea of how to use capturable curiosity for future civic engagement?

Get In Touch

07. Methods & Acknowledgements

One-of-a-kind data infrastructure and rigorous research

This analysis included search data spanning 16 months between June 2020 and December 2021, conducted by participants who identified as “Hispanic.” All search data in this sample led to a verifiable referral destination within 3 minutes of the initial search. If a participant searched in google and then logged off their computer, their search would not be included. Similarly, if a participant searched in google and then searched right after in google, the first search would not be included. Search data included any searches conducted on bing.com, google.com, yahoo.com, duckduckgo.com, and info.com. In total, there were roughly 11.5 million searches from roughly 90,000 Latino participants.

 

Defining Navigational & Transactional Searches

In order to isolate capturable curiosity searches, each search was classified as navigational, transactional, or informational. If a search is not navigational, transactional, or porn, it is informational, and has the potential for capturable curiosity.

Navigational searches were defined as:

Search DescriptionExample
Searches where the referral destination was the same as the search term:Ex: WALMART
Searches where the referral destinations were categorized as either a “Corporate Presence” or "Search/Navigation”,Ex: KIDS SEARCH ENGINE
Searches that contained 'LOGIN/LOG IN/WEBMAIL/WEB MAIL/SIGN IN/SIGNIN'Ex: CHASE LOGIN
Searches that were less than 2 wordsEx: UK

 

Transactional searches were defined as:

Search DescriptionExample
Searches where the referral destinations were designated as ‘Retail’Ex: WOMENS COATS ON SALE

 

Porn searches were defined as:

Search DescriptionExample
Searches where the referral destinations were designated as ‘XXX Adult’Ex: MASTERBATING GALS

 

Creating Constellations

To make these data comprehensible, we had to create clusters of searches that were related semantically (i.e., searches about apples are similar to searches about oranges and searches about nursing are similar to searches about health care) but were also related behaviorally (i.e., people who search for help in organic chemistry also search for the periodic table and people who search for information about pain management also search for information about health care). For this analysis, we excluded transactional, navigational, and porn searches, leaving us with 4.7 million searches from 77,000 Latino participants.

To achieve this balance between things with the same meaning and things that are searched by the same kinds of people, we started with 1,000 clusters of searches using the same keywords that represented all the variation in topics from all times during the study period. For instance, one of these microclusters contained the search terms:

 

Search Query
GEORGIA BRANCHES OF GOVERNEMNT
WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING IS NOT AN ELECTED STATEWIDE CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICER IN GEORGIA
THE GEORGIA SUPREME COURT IS ELECTED BY

 

Then we built a network of microclusters and their subsequent destinations. For instance, participants searching for math homework went to quizlet.com and participants searching for history homework also went to quizlet.com. Therefore they would be closer in the network than people searching for song lyrics who ended up on youtube.com.

Finally, we partitioned the network of topics and destinations into 9 constellations of content. Constellations are groups of topics and destinations that occur frequently together. Each constellation was reached by at least 1% of the sample daily.

 

Civic Engagement Topic Detection

Searches that contained one or more of the keywords related to a topic of interest were considered relevant to that topic. Here are the keywords we used. Some are stemmed to capture all forms of that word (including Spanish). For example, “Immig” will capture all searches that include immigrant, immigrants, immigration, etc.

Topics of InterestKeywords
votingVOTE, VOTER, VOTES, VOTERS, VOTED, ELECT, ELECTION, ELECTED, ELECTIONS, ELECCIÓN, ELECCIÓNES, VOTAR, VOTANTE
healthcareHEALTH, SALUD
racismRACIST, RACISM, CRITICAL RACE, BLACK LIVES
immigrationINMIGR, IMMIGR, MIGRANT, USCIS, CITIZENSHIP, CIUDADAN
unemploymentUNEMPLOYMENT, DESEMPLEO
disabilityDISABILITY, IEP, DISABILIDAD
homeownerMORTGAGE, HOME LOAN, HIPOTECA, PRÉSTAMO HIPOTECARIO
rentrent
socialismSOCIALISM, SOCIALIST
educationEDUCATION, EDUCACIÓN
covidCOVID, CORONAVIRUS, PANDEMIC
climate changeCLIMATE CHANGE, GLOBAL WARMING, CAMBIO CLIMÁTICO, CALENTAMIENTO GLOBAL

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where did the data for this research come from?

    All the media data in the Narrative Observatory come from commercial partners who donate their data to this work. This community of data philanthropists includes big companies, like Nielsen and Comscore, and also smaller startups, like Peakmetrics, that are scraping different corners of the web, news, television, radio, and other kinds of media. We are grateful to them for supporting the Narrative Observatory.

  • Is data from the Narrative Observatory open and accessible?

    We make data available to a network of mostly academic researchers, who use them to better understand how media systems work, and how to improve them. The terms and conditions for data availability derive from agreements with our data partners. We are always happy to share our data and methods with others and have tried our best to develop the Narrative Observatory in a way that is open, accessible, and well documented on our public channels.

  • What are your data practices with respect to privacy and security?

    As a 501(c)3 organization, bound to serve the public good, Harmony Labs has adopted a set of principles and practices around data to: ensure we only gather, use, and store data that supports our mission; anonymize at ingest any data that contains personally identifiable information; maintain robust security, limited access, and encryption; and actively work with our partners and in-house data science team to adhere to the highest standards for scientific integrity, clearly communicating methods, assumptions, and practices. In general, we adhere to the principle of least privilege. Which means that the Harmony Labs’ team, partner, and technical infrastructure are only given access to the resources and permissions necessary to complete pre-specified goals. Even our applications and supporting software are only able to interact with specific services and data, limiting unintentional cross-contamination and spillage vectors. Annual independent security audits—most recently completed in December 2022—validate our commitment to data security and strong access controls.

Acknowledgements

Equis and Harmony Labs are deeply grateful to everyone who made this work possible. Your support and dedication have been invaluable. Special thanks to our data philanthropy partners Comscore, TVEyes, and Nielsen. We’d like to extend our appreciation to our friends at Work in Progress and Jocelyn Tsaih for their invaluable design support throughout this journey. You’re the best!

About

Harmony Labs
Harmony Labs researchers and reshapes society’s relationship with media, using science, data, and creativity. For more than a decade, our work has helped storytellers and strategists, decision makers and dreamers, to harness the immense power of media to shape a positive, pluralistic future. Learn more about our media research lab here.

Equis
Equis is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization that primarily supports nonpartisan advocacy and organizing. Learn more here.

More from the Narrative Observatory @Harmony Labs

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In partnership with advocacy organizations, philanthropic foundations, entertainment and news media brands, and creators, the Narrative Observatory has helped shape the cultural strategy and media making of dozens of partners to-date. You can explore some of this work below:

If you’re interested in learning more about the Narrative Observatory and how it might be leveraged for your work, get in touch.