The topic of this session is inspired by how our FB Newsfeeds are growing less diverse and how FB are tracking our activity on other sites – which in turn will make our input even more uniform. We believe this is a dangerous development. Our physical lives are often made up of relationships with people that are similar to us and our digital lives could be a very valuable counterweight to potential groupthink.
Instead we see that the similarities are overstated and the differences of opinion are hidden. It happens with our FB Newsfeed and our Google search results. This is especially evident and problematic during serious and tragic events like the ongoing conflict in Gaza. If we’re never exposed to different opinions and everything confirms what we believe, it’s not very strange if we think that everyone feels the same way we do. Then how will we react when we do meet someone who disagrees with us? Will we be able to have an open discussion, or will we shy away from conversation and brand them as deviants not worth our time?
This is why we want to talk about «The filter bubble and the problem of conformity» and our goal for the session is to come up with potential solutions and methods on how to avoid being stuck in a filter bubble.
To get you thinking we’ve collected some articles and talks we think are worth checking out:
Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” (TED-talk):
This TED-talk is over three years old, but sadly it’s still relevant.
«[…] And this moves us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see. As Eric Schmidt said, “It will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them.”
So I do think this is a problem. And I think, if you take all of these filters together, you take all these algorithms, you get what I call a filter bubble. And your filter bubble is your own personal, unique universe of information that you live in online. And what’s in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But the thing is that you don’t decide what gets in. And more importantly, you don’t actually see what gets edited out. […]
But we really need you to make sure that these algorithms have encoded in them a sense of the public life, a sense of civic responsibility. We need you to make sure that they’re transparent enough that we can see what the rules are that determine what gets through our filters. And we need you to give us some control so that we can decide what gets through and what doesn’t. Because I think we really need the Internet to be that thing that we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together. We need it to introduce us to new ideas and new people and different perspectives. And it’s not going to do that if it leaves us all isolated in a Web of one.»
Israel, Gaza, War & Data: Social Networks and the Art of Personalizing Propaganda
If you don’t have time to read the whole article, you should definitely try this experiment:
«Facebook’s trending pages aggregate content that are heavily shared (“trending”) across the platform. If you’re already logged into Facebook, you’ll see a personalized view of the trend, highlighting your friends and their views on the trend. Give it a try.
Now open a separate browser window in incognito mode (Chrome: File->New Incognito Window) and navigate to the same page [copy-paste this: https://www.facebook.com/topic/Gaza/107601032603195]. Since the browser has no idea who you are on Facebook, you’ll get the raw, unpersonalized feed.
How are the two different?»
Sweeping Away a Search History
This article from The New York Times gives you some handy tips on how to erase your search history which will, if not pop your filter bubble, at least give you some more space.
«Even with your history turned off, though, you are still sending a lot of personal data when you surf or search from all three, especially if you are logged in to your Google, Microsoft or Yahoo account when you search.
Gabriel Weinberg, chief executive at the alternative search engine DuckDuckGo, says there is a different way, and it can still involve making money from search-related ads.
DuckDuckGo collects no personally identifying information (like your I.P. address) as you search and doesn’t save any search history that can be tied to you. But DuckDuckGo still makes money on ads.»
Check out DuckDuckGo's explanation of the filter bubble at dontbubble.us
Tim Berners-Lee: A Magna Carta for the web (TED-talk):
«What sort of web do you want? I want one which is not fragmented into lots of pieces, as some countries have been suggesting they should do in reaction to recent surveillance. I want a web which has got, for example, is a really good basis for democracy. I want a web where I can use healthcare with privacy and where there’s a lot of health data, clinical data is available to scientists to do research. I want a web where the other 60 percent get on board as fast as possible. I want a web which is such a powerful basis for innovation that when something nasty happens, some disaster strikes, that we can respond by building stuff to respond to it very quickly.
So this is just some of the things that I want, from a big list, obviously it’s longer. You have your list. I want us to use this 25th anniversary to think about what sort of a web we want. You can go to webat25.org and find some links. There are lots of sites where people have started to put together a Magna Carta, a bill of rights for the web. How about we do that? How about we decide, these are, in a way, becoming fundamental rights, the right to communicate with whom I want. What would be on your list for that Magna Carta? Let’s crowdsource a Magna Carta for the web. Let’s do that this year. Let’s use the energy from the 25th anniversary to crowdsource a Magna Carta to the web.
Thank you. And do me a favor, will you? Fight for it for me. Okay? Thanks.»
– Tim Berners-Lee
Inspired? Take action and join Tim Berners-Lee’s campaign The Web We Want
We’re looking forward to discussing this next week! See you on Wednesday, Aug. 27th at 18:30 – Sørfløyen, Wesselsgate 6b, 0165 Oslo.