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robertogreco : filterbubbles   9

Engagement Is the Enemy of Serendipity – Dan Cohen
"Whenever I’m grumpy about an update to a technology I use, I try to perform a self-audit examining why I’m unhappy about this change. It’s a helpful exercise since we are all by nature resistant to even minor alterations to the technologies we use every day (which is why website redesign is now a synonym for bare-knuckle boxing), and this feeling only increases with age. Sometimes the grumpiness is justified, since one of your tools has become duller or less useful in a way you can clearly articulate; other times, well, welcome to middle age.

The New York Times recently changed their iPad app to emphasize three main tabs, Top Stories, For You, and Sections. The first is the app version of their chockablock website home page, which contains not only the main headlines and breaking news stories, but also an editor-picked mixture of stories and features from across the paper. For You is a new personalized zone that is algorithmically generated by looking at the stories and sections you have most frequently visited, or that you select to include by clicking on blue buttons that appear near specific columns and topics. The last tab is Sections, that holdover word from the print newspaper, with distinct parts that are folded and nested within each other, such as Metro, Business, Arts, and Sports.

Currently my For You tab looks as if it was designed for a hypochondriacal runner who wishes to live in outer space, but not too far away, since he still needs to acquire new books and follow the Red Sox. I shall not comment about the success of the New York Times algorithm here, other than to say that I almost never visit the For You tab, for reasons I will explain shortly. For now, suffice it to say that For You is not for me.

But the Sections tab I do visit, every day, and this is the real source of my grumpiness. At the same time that the New York Times launched those three premier tabs, they also removed the ability to swipe, simply and quickly, between sections of the newspaper. You used to be able to start your morning news consumption with the headlines and then browse through articles in different sections from left to right. Now you have to tap on Sections, which reveals a menu, from which you select another section, from which you select an article, over and over. It’s like going back to the table of contents every time you finish a chapter of a book, rather than just turning the page to the next chapter.

Sure, it seems relatively minor, and I suspect the change was made because confused people would accidentally swipe between sections, but paired with For You it subtly but firmly discourages the encounter with many of the newspaper’s sections. The assumption in this design is that if you’re a space runner, why would you want to slog through the International news section or the Arts section on the way to orbital bliss in the Science and Health sections?

* * *

When I was growing up in Boston, my first newspaper love was the sports section of the Boston Globe. I would get the paper in the morning and pull out that section and read it from cover to cover, all of the columns and game summaries and box scores. Somewhere along the way, I started briefly checking out adjacent sections, Metro and Business and Arts, and then the front section itself, with the latest news of the day and reports from around the country and world. The technology and design of the paper encouraged this sampling, as the unpacked paper was literally scattered in front of me on the table. Were many of these stories and columns boring to my young self? Undoubtedly. But for some reason—the same reason many of those reading this post will recognize—I slowly ended up paging through the whole thing from cover to cover, still focusing on the Sox, but diving into stories from various sections and broadly getting a sense of numerous fields and pursuits.

This kind of interface and user experience is now threatened because who needs to scan through seemingly irrelevant items when you can have constant go-go engagement, that holy grail of digital media. The Times, likely recognizing their analog past (which is still the present for a dwindling number of print subscribers), tries to replicate some of the old newspaper serendipity with Top Stories, which is more like A Bunch of Interesting Things after the top headlines. But I fear they have contradicted themselves in this new promotion of For You and the commensurate demotion of Sections.

The engagement of For You—which joins the countless For Yous that now dominate our online media landscape—is the enemy of serendipity, which is the chance encounter that leads to a longer, richer interaction with a topic or idea. It’s the way that a metalhead bumps into opera in a record store, or how a young kid becomes interested in history because of the book reviews that follow the box scores. It’s the way that a course taken on a whim in college leads, unexpectedly, to a new lifelong pursuit. Engagement isn’t a form of serendipity through algorithmically personalized feeds; it’s the repeated satisfaction of Present You with your myopically current loves and interests, at the expense of Future You, who will want new curiosities, hobbies, and experiences."
dancohen  2019  education  newspapers  socialmedia  technology  trends  media  engagement  serendipity  algorithms  libraries  adjacency  interface  digital  digitalmedia  design  journalism  nytimes  web  generalists  exposure  experience  interaction  personalization  filterbubbles 
july 2019 by robertogreco
recalibrating your sites – the ANOVA
"Not too long ago, I felt the need to change the stream of personalities and attitudes that were pouring into my head, and it’s been remarkable.

This was really the product of idiosyncratic personal conditions, but it’s ended up being a good intellectual exercise too. I had to rearrange a few things in my digital social life. And concurrently I had realized that my sense of the world was being distorted by the flow of information that was being deposited into my brain via the internet. I hadn’t really lost a sense of what the “other side” thinks politically; I’m still one of those geezers who forces himself to read Reason and the Wall Street Journal op/ed page and, god help me, National Review. But I had definitely lost a sense of the mental lives of people who did not occupy my various weird interests.

What were other people thinking about, at least as far as could be gleaned by what they shared online? What appeared to be a big deal to them and what didn’t? I had lost my sense of social proportion. I couldn’t tell if the things my friends were obsessing about were things that the rest of the world was obsessing about. Talking to IRL friends that don’t post much or at all online helped give me a sense that I was missing something. But I didn’t know what.

No, I had to use the tools available to me to dramatically change the opinions and ideas and attitudes that were coming flowing into my mental life. And it had become clear that, though I have an RSS feed and I peruse certain websites and publications regularly, though I still read lots of books and physical journals and magazines, the opinions I was receiving were coming overwhelmingly through social media. People shared things and commented on what they shared on Facebook and Twitter, they made clear what ideas were permissible and what weren’t on Facebook and Twitter, they defined the shared mental world on Facebook and Twitter. They created a language that, if you weren’t paying attention, looked like the lingua franca. I’m sure there are people out there who can take all of this in with the proper perspective and not allow it to subtly shape your perception of social attitudes writ large. But I can’t.

It’s all particularly disturbing because a lot of what you see and don’t online is the product of algorithms that are blunt instruments at best.

So I set about disconnecting, temporarily, from certain people, groups, publications, and conversations. I found voices that popped up in my feeds a lot and muted them. I unfollowed groups and pages. I looked out for certain markers of status and social belonging and used them as guides for what to avoid. I was less interested in avoiding certain subjects than I was in avoiding certain perspectives, the social frames that we all use to understand the world. The news cycle was what it was; I could not avoid Trump, as wonderful as that sounds. But I could avoid a certain way of looking at Trump, and at the broader world. In particular I wanted to look past what we once called ideology: I wanted to see the ways in which my internet-mediated intellectual life was dominated by assumptions that did not recognize themselves as assumptions, to understand how the perspective that did not understand itself to be a perspective had distorted my vision of the world. I wanted to better see the water in which my school of fish swims.

Now this can be touchy – mutually connecting with people on social media has become a loaded thing in IRL relationships, for better or worse. Luckily both Facebook and Twitter give you ways to not see someone’s posts without them knowing and without severing the connection. Just make a list of people, pages, and publications that you want to take a diet from, and after a month or two of seeing how different things look, go back to following them. (Alternatively: don’t.) Really do it! The tools are there, and you can always revert back. Just keep a record of what you’re doing.

I was prepared for this to result in a markedly different online experience for me, and for it to somewhat change my perception of what “everyone” thinks, of what people are reading, watching, and listening to, etc. But even so, I’ve been floored by how dramatically different the online world looks with a little manipulation of the feeds. A few subjects dropped out entirely; the Twin Peaks reboot went from being everywhere to being nowhere, for example. But what really changed was the affect through which the world was presenting itself to me.

You would not be surprised by what my lenses appear to have been (and still largely to be): very college educated, very left-leaing, very New York, very media-savvy, very middlebrow, and for lack of a better word, very “cool.” That is, the perspective that I had tried to wean myself off of was made up of people whose online self-presentation is ostentatiously ironic, in-joke heavy, filled with cultural references that are designed to hit just the right level of obscurity, and generally oriented towards impressing people through being performatively not impressed by anything. It was made up of people who are passionately invested in not appearing to be passionately invested in anything. It’s a sensibility that you can trace back to Gawker and Spy magazine and much, much further back than that, if you care to.

Perhaps most dramatic was the changes to what – and who – was perceived as a Big Deal. By cutting out a hundred voices or fewer, things and people that everybody talks about became things and people that nobody talks about. The internet is a technology for creating small ponds for us to all be big fish in. But you change your perspective just slightly, move over just an inch, and suddenly you get a sense of just how few people know about you or could possibly care. It’s oddly comforting, to be reminded that even if you enjoy a little internet notoriety, the average person on the street could not care less who you are or what you do. I recommend it.

Of course, there are profound limits to this. My feeds are still dominantly coming from a few overlapping social cultures. Trimming who I’m following hasn’t meant that I’m suddenly connected to more high school dropouts, orthodox Jews, senior citizens, or people who don’t speak English. I would never pretend that this little exercise has given me a truly broad perspective. The point has just been to see how dramatically a few changes to my digital life could alter my perception of “the conversation.” And it’s done that. More than ever, I worry that our sense of shared political assumptions and the perceived immorality of the status quo is the result of systems that exclude a large mass of people, whose opinions will surely matter in the political wars ahead.

I am now adding some of what I cut back in to my digital life. The point was never really to avoid particular publications or people. I like some of what and who I had cut out very much. The point is to remain alive to how arbitrary and idiosyncratic changes in the constant flow of information can alter our perception of the human race. It’s something I intend to do once a year or so, to jolt myself back into understanding how limiting my perspective really is.

Everyone knows, these days, that we’re living in digitally-enabled bubbles. The trouble is that our instincts are naturally to believe that everyone else is in a bubble, or at least that their bubbles are smaller and with thicker walls. But people like me – college educated, living in an urban enclave, at least socially liberal, tuned in to arts and culture news and criticism, possessed of the vocabulary of media and the academy, “savvy” – you face unique temptations in this regard. No, I don’t think that this kind of bubble is the same as someone who only gets their news from InfoWars and Breitbart. But the fact that so many people like me write the professional internet, the fact that the creators of the idioms and attitudes of our newsmedia and cultural industry almost universally come from a very thin slice of the American populace, is genuinely dangerous.

To regain perspective takes effort, and I encourage you all to expend that effort, particularly if you are an academic or journalist. Your world is small, and our world is big."
freddiedeboer  2017  internet  twitter  facebook  filterbubbles  socialmedia  relationships  algorithms  echochambers  academia  journalism  culture  society  diversity  perspective  listening  web  media  feeds 
august 2017 by robertogreco
The Complacent Class (Episode 1/5) - YouTube
[See also: http://learn.mruniversity.com/everyday-economics/tyler-cowen-on-american-culture-and-innovation/ ]

"Restlessness has long been seen as a signature trait of what it means to be American. We've been willing to cross great distances, take big risks, and adapt to change in way that has produced a dynamic economy. From Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs, innovation has been firmly rooted in American DNA.

What if that's no longer true?

Let’s take a journey back to the 19th century – specifically, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. At that massive event, people got to do things like ride a ferris wheel, go on a moving sidewalk, see a dishwasher, see electric light, or even try modern chewing gum for the very first time. More than a third of the entire U.S. population at that time attended. And remember, this was 1893 when travel was much more difficult and costly.

Fairs that shortly followed Chicago included new inventions and novelties the telephone, x-ray machine, hot dogs, and ice cream cones.

These earlier years of American innovation were filled with rapid improvement in a huge array of industries. Railroads, electricity, telephones, radio, reliable clean water, television, cars, airplanes, vaccines and antibiotics, nuclear power – the list goes on – all came from this era.

After about the 1970s, innovation on this scale slowed down. Computers and communication have been the focus. What we’ve seen more recently has been mostly incremental improvements, with the large exception of smart phones.

This means that we’ve experienced a ton of changes in our virtual world, but surprisingly few in our physical world. For example, travel hasn’t much improved and, in some cases, has even slowed down. The planes we’re primarily using? They were designed half a century ago.

Since the 1960s, our culture has gotten less restless, too. It’s become more bureaucratic. The sixties and seventies ushered in a wave of protests and civil disobedience. But today, people hire protests planners and file for permits. The demands for change are tamer compared to their mid-century counterparts.

This might not sound so bad. We’ve entered a golden age for many of our favorite entertainment options. Americans are generally better off than ever before. But the U.S. economy is less dynamic. We’re stagnating. We’re complacent. What does mean for our economic and cultural future?"

[The New Era of Segregation (Episode 2/5)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNlA_Zz1_bM

Do you live in a “bubble?” There’s a good chance that the answer is, at least in part, a resounding “Yes.”

In our algorithm-driven world, digital servants cater to our individual preferences like never before. This has caused many improvements to our daily lives. For example, instead of gathering the kids together for a frustrating Blockbuster trip to pick out a VHS for family movie night, you can simply scroll through kid-friendly titles on Netflix that have been narrowed down based on your family’s previous viewing history. Not so bad.

But this algorithmic matching isn’t limited to entertainment choices. We’re also getting matched to spouses of a similar education level and earning potential. More productive workers are able to get easily matched to more productive firms. On the individual level, this is all very good. Our digital servants are helping us find better matches and improving our lives.

What about at the macro level? All of this matching can also produce more segregation – but on a much broader level than just racial segregation. People with similar income and education levels, and who do similar types of work, are more likely to cluster into their own little bubbles. This matching has consequences, and they’re not all virtual.

Power couples and highly productive workers are concentrating in metropolises like New York City and San Francisco. With many high earners, lots of housing demand, and strict building codes, rents in these types of cities are skyrocketing. People with lower incomes simply can no longer afford the cost of living, so they leave. New people with lower incomes also aren’t coming in, so we end up with a type of self-reinforcing segregation.

If you think back to the 2016 U.S. election, you’ll remember that most political commentators, who tend to reside in trendy large cities, were completely shocked by the rise of Donald Trump. What part did our new segregation play in their inability to understand what was happening in middle America?

In terms of racial segregation, there are worrying trends. The variety and level of racism of we’ve seen in the past may be on the decline, but the data show less residential racial mixing among whites and minorities.

Why does this matter? For a dynamic economy, mixing a wide variety of people in everyday life is crucial for the development of ideas and upward mobility. If matching is preventing mixing, we have to start making intentional changes to improve socio-economic integration and bring dynamism back into the American economy."]
safety  control  life  us  innovation  change  invention  risk  risktaking  stasis  travel  transportation  dynamism  stagnation  economics  crisis  restlessness  tylercowen  fiterbubbles  segregation  protest  communication  disobedience  compliance  civildisobedience  infrastructure  complacency  2017  algorithms  socialmobility  inequality  race  class  filterbubbles  incomeinequality  isolation  cities  urban  urbanism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
FlipFeed - step into someone else's Twitter feed
"FlipFeed is a Google Chrome Extension that enables Twitter users to replace their own feed with that of another real Twitter user. Powered by deep learning and social network analysis, feeds are selected based on inferred political ideology ("left" or "right") and served to users of the extension. For example, a right-leaning user who uses FlipFeed may load and navigate a left-leaning user's feed, observing the news stories, commentary, and other content they consume. The user can then decide to flip back to their own feed or repeat the process with another feed.

FlipFeed was built by researchers in the Laboratory for Social Machines at the MIT Media Lab to explore how social media platforms can be used to mitigate, rather than exacerbate, ideological polarization by helping people explore and empathize with different perspectives."
twitter  tools  perspective  filterbubbles  filtering 
february 2017 by robertogreco
I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup | Slate Star Codex
[via: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/jacobs/the-outgroup-and-its-errors/ ]

"One day I realized that entirely by accident I was fulfilling all the Jewish stereotypes.

I’m nerdy, over-educated, good with words, good with money, weird sense of humor, don’t get outside much, I like deli sandwiches. And I’m a psychiatrist, which is about the most stereotypically Jewish profession short of maybe stand-up comedian or rabbi.

I’m not very religious. And I don’t go to synagogue. But that’s stereotypically Jewish too!

I bring this up because it would be a mistake to think “Well, a Jewish person is by definition someone who is born of a Jewish mother. Or I guess it sort of also means someone who follows the Mosaic Law and goes to synagogue. But I don’t care about Scott’s mother, and I know he doesn’t go to synagogue, so I can’t gain any useful information from knowing Scott is Jewish.”

The defining factors of Judaism – Torah-reading, synagogue-following, mother-having – are the tip of a giant iceberg. Jews sometimes identify as a “tribe”, and even if you don’t attend synagogue, you’re still a member of that tribe and people can still (in a statistical way) infer things about you by knowing your Jewish identity – like how likely they are to be psychiatrists.

The last section raised a question – if people rarely select their friends and associates and customers explicitly for politics, how do we end up with such intense political segregation?

Well, in the same way “going to synagogue” is merely the iceberg-tip of a Jewish tribe with many distinguishing characteristics, so “voting Republican” or “identifying as conservative” or “believing in creationism” is the iceberg-tip of a conservative tribe with many distinguishing characteristics.

A disproportionate number of my friends are Jewish, because I meet them at psychiatry conferences or something – we self-segregate not based on explicit religion but on implicit tribal characteristics. So in the same way, political tribes self-segregate to an impressive extent – a 1/10^45 extent, I will never tire of hammering in – based on their implicit tribal characteristics.

The people who are actually into this sort of thing sketch out a bunch of speculative tribes and subtribes, but to make it easier, let me stick with two and a half.

The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

(There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time)

I think these “tribes” will turn out to be even stronger categories than politics. Harvard might skew 80-20 in terms of Democrats vs. Republicans, 90-10 in terms of liberals vs. conservatives, but maybe 99-1 in terms of Blues vs. Reds.

It’s the many, many differences between these tribes that explain the strength of the filter bubble – which have I mentioned segregates people at a strength of 1/10^45? Even in something as seemingly politically uncharged as going to California Pizza Kitchen or Sushi House for dinner, I’m restricting myself to the set of people who like cute artisanal pizzas or sophisticated foreign foods, which are classically Blue Tribe characteristics.

Are these tribes based on geography? Are they based on race, ethnic origin, religion, IQ, what TV channels you watched as a kid? I don’t know.

Some of it is certainly genetic – estimates of the genetic contribution to political association range from 0.4 to 0.6. Heritability of one’s attitudes toward gay rights range from 0.3 to 0.5, which hilariously is a little more heritable than homosexuality itself.

(for an interesting attempt to break these down into more rigorous concepts like “traditionalism”, “authoritarianism”, and “in-group favoritism” and find the genetic loading for each see here. For an attempt to trace the specific genes involved, which mostly turn out to be NMDA receptors, see here)

But I don’t think it’s just genetics. There’s something else going on too. The word “class” seems like the closest analogue, but only if you use it in the sophisticated Paul Fussell Guide Through the American Status System way instead of the boring “another word for how much money you make” way.

For now we can just accept them as a brute fact – as multiple coexisting societies that might as well be made of dark matter for all of the interaction they have with one another – and move on."



"Every election cycle like clockwork, conservatives accuse liberals of not being sufficiently pro-America. And every election cycle like clockwork, liberals give extremely unconvincing denials of this.

“It’s not that we’re, like, against America per se. It’s just that…well, did you know Europe has much better health care than we do? And much lower crime rates? I mean, come on, how did they get so awesome? And we’re just sitting here, can’t even get the gay marriage thing sorted out, seriously, what’s wrong with a country that can’t…sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, America. They’re okay. Cesar Chavez was really neat. So were some other people outside the mainstream who became famous precisely by criticizing majority society. That’s sort of like America being great, in that I think the parts of it that point out how bad the rest of it are often make excellent points. Vote for me!”

(sorry, I make fun of you because I love you)

There was a big brouhaha a couple of years ago when, as it first became apparent Obama had a good shot at the Presidency, Michelle Obama said that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.”

Republicans pounced on the comment, asking why she hadn’t felt proud before, and she backtracked saying of course she was proud all the time and she loves America with the burning fury of a million suns and she was just saying that the Obama campaign was particularly inspiring.

As unconvincing denials go, this one was pretty far up there. But no one really held it against her. Probably most Obama voters felt vaguely the same way. I was an Obama voter, and I have proud memories of spending my Fourth of Julys as a kid debunking people’s heartfelt emotions of patriotism. Aaron Sorkin:
[What makes America the greatest country in the world?] It’s not the greatest country in the world! We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, No. 4 in labor force, and No. 4 in exports. So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the f*** you’re talking about.

(Another good retort is “We’re number one? Sure – number one in incarceration rates, drone strikes, and making new parents go back to work!”)

All of this is true, of course. But it’s weird that it’s such a classic interest of members of the Blue Tribe, and members of the Red Tribe never seem to bring it up.

(“We’re number one? Sure – number one in levels of sexual degeneracy! Well, I guess probably number two, after the Netherlands, but they’re really small and shouldn’t count.”)

My hunch – both the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe, for whatever reason, identify “America” with the Red Tribe. Ask people for typically “American” things, and you end up with a very Red list of characteristics – guns, religion, barbecues, American football, NASCAR, cowboys, SUVs, unrestrained capitalism.

That means the Red Tribe feels intensely patriotic about “their” country, and the Blue Tribe feels like they’re living in fortified enclaves deep in hostile territory.

Here is a popular piece published on a major media site called America: A Big, Fat, Stupid Nation. Another: America: A Bunch Of Spoiled, Whiny Brats. Americans are ignorant, scientifically illiterate religious fanatics whose “patriotism” is actually just narcissism. You Will Be Shocked At How Ignorant Americans Are, and we should Blame The Childish, Ignorant American People.

Needless to say, every single one of these articles was written by an American and read almost entirely by Americans. Those Americans very likely enjoyed the articles very much and did not feel the least bit insulted.

And look at the sources. HuffPo, Salon, Slate. Might those have anything in common?

On both sides, “American” can be either a normal demonym, or a code word for a member of the Red Tribe."



"This essay is bad and I should feel bad.

I should feel bad because I made exactly the mistake I am trying to warn everyone else about, and it wasn’t until I was almost done that I noticed.

How virtuous, how noble I … [more]
politics  psychology  society  tolerance  scottalexander  partisanship  bias  favoritism  filterbubbles  segregation  darkmatter  tribes  subtribes  polarization  patriotism 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Outgroup and Its Errors | The American Conservative
"One of the most troubling features of our current political and social climate is how powerfully it is shaped by sheer animus.

A couple of years ago, Scott Alexander wrote a post titled “I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup.” I strongly recommend that you read the whole thing, but essentially Alexander sets out to answer a question: How is it that, say, straight white men can be gracious and kind to, say, lesbian black women while being unremittingly bitter towards other straight white men? What has happened here to the old distinction between ingroups and outgroups? His answer is that “outgroups may be the people who look exactly like you, and scary foreigner types can become the in-group on a moment’s notice when it seems convenient.”

Then Alexander gives a powerful example. He mentions being chastised by readers who thought he was “uncomplicatedly happy” when he expressed relief that Osama bin Laden was dead.
Of the “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people I knew, the overwhelming emotion was conspicuous disgust that other people could be happy about his death. I hastily backtracked and said I wasn’t happy per se, just surprised and relieved that all of this was finally behind us. […]

Then a few years later, Margaret Thatcher died. And on my Facebook wall – made of these same “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people – the most common response was to quote some portion of the song “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”. Another popular response was to link the videos of British people spontaneously throwing parties in the street, with comments like “I wish I was there so I could join in.” From this exact same group of people, not a single expression of disgust or a “c’mon, guys, we’re all human beings here.”


Even when he pointed this out, none of his readers saw a problem with their joy in Thatcher’s death. And that’s when Alexander realized that “if you’re part of the Blue Tribe, then your outgroup isn’t al-Qaeda, or Muslims, or blacks, or gays, or transpeople, or Jews, or atheists – it’s the Red Tribe.”

Since Alexander wrote that post, an article has appeared based on research that confirms his hypothesis. “Fear and Loathing across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization,” by Shanto Iyengar and Sean J. Westwood, indicates that Americans today do not simply feel animus towards those who disagree with with politically, but are prepared to act on it. Their research discovers a good deal of racial prejudice, which is to be expected and which is likely to grow worse in the coming years, but people seem to think that they shouldn’t be racists or at least shouldn’t show it. However, people of one Tribe evidently believe, quite openly, that members of the other Tribe deserve whatever nastiness comes to them — and are willing to help dish out the nastiness themselves. “Despite lingering negative attitudes toward African Americans, social norms appear to suppress racial discrimination, but there is no such reluctance to discriminate based on partisan affiliation.”

That is, many Americans are happy to treat other people unfairly if those other people belong to the alien Tribe. And — this is perhaps the most telling finding of all — their desire to punish the outgroup is significantly stronger than their desire to support the ingroup. Through a series of games, Iyengar and Westwood discovered that “Outgroup animosity is more consequential than favoritism for the ingroup.”

One of my consistent themes over the years — see, for instance, here and here — has been the importance of acting politically with the awareness that people who agree with you won’t always be in charge. That is, I believe that it is reasonable and wise, in a democratic social order, to make a commitment to proceduralism: to agree with my political adversaries to abide by the same rules. That belief is on its way to being comprehensively rejected by the American people, in favor of a different model: Error has no rights.

What is being forgotten in this rush to punish the outgroup is a wise word put forth long ago by Orestes Brownson: “Error has no rights, but the man who errs has equal rights with him who errs not.”"
alanjacobs  othering  politics  society  scottalexander  outgroup  us  2016  filterbubbles  bias  animosity  favoritism  democracy  procedure  proceduralism  error  orestesbrownson  polarization  shantoiyengar  seanwestwood  disagreement  discrimination  partisanship 
april 2016 by robertogreco
2, 6: Neighborhoods, the Anti-Algorithm
"So what does this have to do with my neighborhood?

G.K. Chesterton, in a collection of essays titled Heretics, wrote:
"The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce variety and uncompromising divergences of men…In a large community, we can choose our companions. In a small community, our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized society groups come into existence founded upon sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery."

That was 1905. Long before the internet would give us the largest community of all. Yet, the oft-cited "filter bubble" of the internet is Chesterton's community of choice. The easy community. The one that just happens because we want what we want. And in a less troubled world, that wouldn't be much to fuss about. But in our world, the "filter bubble" is dangerous. It makes fear, hatred, and oppression all the more abundant, both online and off. Before the internet, we called "filter bubbles" segregation. We call them "filter bubbles" now because its easier to see them as a manifestation of technology than the effect of our choices. Because if we saw them for what they truly are, we'd have to call them segregation again. We thought we left that behind. But, no, we haven't. Segregation, of every kind, is the entropy against which we all struggle, the product of bodies living in time, wired down to our cells to survive at all costs, responding to their loudest signal, fear. Chesterton understood that the principal challenge we humans are given to work out in this life is each other, and that nowhere better than next door is that challenge met.

But in Facebook's world, next-door has no greater offer of intimacy than across town, or state, or country. In the large community, as Chesterton said, we can choose our companions. That's the appeal of the network. Community on my terms. Forget that we know it's not good for us. Or that it's dangerous. Forget that it's a shinier, faster form of segregation. Forget that it's invisible and layered, making it easier to explain away. None of this is Facebook's fault. If it wasn't them, then it would be AOL, or Friendster, or MySpace, or any of the many networks that came before it. We can't blame them — any of them — for segregation, however technological its 21st century incarnation may be. But we can blame them for selling it. The economic benefit of segregation is nothing new; it makes selling things easier. But segregation is Facebook's secret sauce. It's an economic imperative. Like just about every "platform" of the internet today, it is ruthlessly driven to box each one of us in. To confine us to an echo-chamber. Not for our own benefit, but for theirs. Because it makes it easier for them to control us. And no, not to usher in some dramatic, Illuminati-style new world order. It's hardly that interesting! It's to sell tiny display ads and make heaps of money. That's it. Controlling us is simply an act of inventory management.

Of course, it's easy to look past all of this. To point at the good that thrives on the network — and of that, there is plenty. The lonely who are no longer lonely because of it. The oppressed who grow more powerful when bound together. But to celebrate the network's role in that only heightens my awareness that it is something we could have — should have — without it. It's too easy, also, to celebrate the engines of our ingenuity. See this? Look what we have made! But that we are as enamored with the algorithm as we so clearly are is an indicator that our hearts are way out of sync with our minds. We have engineered such sophisticated tools for connecting, ordering, and studying ourselves; it's an astounding achievement. It's one we might even celebrate if it were truly an open project for the common good. But it isn't. Not even close. So why do we pretend that it is? The network is not ours. It's the other way around. We are the network's. To sell. That is, unless we get off the network. Or at least spend a whole lot less time there.

My neighbors have convinced me that community is not only of the network. Saying such a thing sounds trite. But it's another thing entirely to live it. Here's an example: Last year, the doctor and his wife down the street decided to organize weekly neighborhood dinners. Each Sunday evening, someone hosts dinner for the neighborhood. When I first heard the idea, I was aghast. Weekly! As in, every week? No, I thought, monthly, maybe. But we went to a few, then we hosted one of our own — which wasn't nearly as much work as we thought it would be — and we've regularly gone to most of the others since. It's not obligatory. It's not like if you go to one, you must go to them all. Or even that if you go to one, you must host one. Few people have gone to every dinner, but many of us have gone to most of them. And many of us have hosted one.

Spending this time together — committing to it — is how the work gets done, not the Facebook group. It's through being together, in each other's homes, in real life. Don't get me wrong, it's no utopia. People get on each other's nerves. Not everyone will become best friends. We're talking about people here. But that's the point. The network can't sell that. It can sell our attention, but the less of our lives we live on the network, the less our attention feels like us. That's the control we still have. Eventually, hopefully, leveraging that control could change the economics of the network. Consider the neighborhood the anti-algorithm."
2015  chrisbutler  facebook  socialnetworks  gkchesterson  difference  filterbubbles  algorithms  neighborhoods  discovery  community  communities  understanding  empathy  small  attention  feeds  segregation  diversity  technology  separation  togetherness  companionship  sympathy 
february 2015 by robertogreco
academic influence on Twitter: the findings | the theoryblog
[via: http://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hack-education-weekly-newsletter-no-70 ]

"The central theme that ran through participant data was that scholars do employ complex logics of influence which guide their perceptions of open networked behaviours, and by which they assess peers and unknown entities within scholarly networked publics. More specifically, all scholars interviewed articulated concepts of network influence that departed significantly from the codified terms of peer review publication and academic hiring hierarchies on which conventional academic influence is judged.



A primary finding of the research was that metrics –the visible numbers attached to social media profiles and blogs – are seldom taken up in isolation. Participants showed a nuanced and relatively consistent understanding of metrics: the higher the number of tweets, the longer a profile was assumed to have been active, and the higher the ratio of followers to following (Twitter does not require reciprocal ‘friending’ in the way Facebook does), the more likely the person was to be perceived as influential. Yet equally consistent across the data were caveats of context, in which participants made clear they seldom interpret the metrics of public Twitter profiles as a final indicator of a scholar’s influence or potential value to their own network.



While size or scale of account was not taken up as a direct indicator of influence or value, there did appear to be a critical mass at which those who are visible in open networks to become ever more visible. A number of interviews – with participants of varying scale – noted that for large accounts identity and reputation can become “a thing,” and the reciprocal communications upon which many participants build their networks becomes difficult to sustain.



Participants who had reached significant scale with their own Twitter accounts, blogs, and digital identities tended not to speak about size of account as a benefit or goal, but more as an identity shift; one that involves challenges, adjustments, and responsibilities, as well as privileges.



The intersection of high network status with lower or unclear institutional academic status was a recurring topic in interviews, in reflections, and in public Twitter conversations. Participants indicated that the opportunities sometimes afforded junior scholars with network influence can create confusion and even discord within the highly-codified prestige arena of academia, because the hallmarks of network influence can’t be ‘read’ on institutional terms. Networked scholars were acutely aware both of network and academic terms of influence and appeared to codeswitch between the two even on Twitter and in other network environments. However, they noted that colleagues and supervisors tended to treat networked engagement as illegitimate and, in some cases, a signal of “not knowing your place.” Of the alternate prestige economies that intersect with academia, participants reported media exposure as the most coherent to their less-networked academic peers.



The value placed on shared peers reflects a broader pattern observed within the research: recognizable signals have a powerful impact on perceived influence and perceived credibility. In the same way that recognizable journal titles or schools or supervisors serve as signals of conventional academic influence, so do both conventional and network factors of recognizability carry weight in assessments of network influence. Thus, shared peer networks matter, as do visible acknowledgements such as mentions and retweets; additionally, familiar academic prestige structures such as rank and institution can add to impressions even of network influence.



One clear indicator of a lack of network influence was automated engagement. Three exemplar identities had automated paper.li or Storify notifications in the screen-captured timelines that were shared with participants; one exemplar’s visible tweets were all paper.li links, or automated daily collections of links. Responses to the paper.li were universally negative, even where the exemplar was otherwise deemed of interest. “Potential value to my network – she tweets relevant stuff so probably I should follow her! On second thought, she has a Paper.li, and by definition I unfollow anyone who uses that tool.” Other participants were equally direct: “The only negative for me was the link to a daily paper.li. I tend to find those annoying (almost never click them!)”

Storify was not interpreted to indicate the same level of low influence or awareness, but its automated tag feature was still a flag that participants mentioned: “This is on the fence for me since Storify takes some effort to be engaged with things and maybe she didn’t get that she can opt out of those tweets informing people that they’ve been “quoted.”"
bonniestewart  2014  twitter  networks  academia  infuence  filterbubbles  metrics  paper.li  storify  authority  via:audreywatters 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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