Saturday, April 12, 2014

How to burst that "Filter Bubble"

In relation to this week's readings, I've found How to Burst the "Filter Bubble" that Protects Us from Opposing Views by the MIT Technology Review from November 29th, 2013. This article is a reaction to Eduardo Graells-Garrido and Mounia Lalmas who had proclaimed the following:

"Social networks allow people to connect with each other and have conversations on a wide variety of topics. However, users tend to connect with like-minded people and read agreeable information, a behavior that leads to group polarization. Motivated by this scenario, we study how to take advantage of partial homophily to suggest agreeable content to users authored by people with opposite views on sensitive issues. We introduce a paradigm to present a data portrait of users, in which their characterizing topics are visualized and their corresponding tweets are displayed using an organic design. Among their tweets we inject recommended tweets from other people considering their views on sensitive issues in addition to topical relevance, indirectly motivating connections between dissimilar people. To evaluate our approach, we present a case study on Twitter about a sensitive topic in Chile, where we estimate user stances for regular people and find intermediary topics. We then evaluated our design in a user study. We found that recommending topically relevant content from authors with opposite views in a baseline interface had a negative emotional effect. We saw that our organic visualization design reverts that effect. We also observed significant individual differences linked to evaluation of recommendations. Our results suggest that organic visualization may revert the negative effects of providing potentially sensitive content."

I find the study relevant for information professionals not only so we are aware of the effects filtering may be having on ourselves but also on our patrons. This research not only demonstrates an interesting way of visualizing data but also what this visualization can do for our patrons and what opposing viewpoints can do for our publics. It's vital we're able to get our patrons the information they both need and want, part of getting this to them is the way it is represented. I strongly recommend checking out the PDF to see what they're talking about!

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