Boycott the Daily Me!

From Boycott the Daily Me! by Sunstein:
“For democracy to work, people must be exposed to ideas they would not have chosen in advance. Democracy depends on unanticipated encounters. It is also important for diverse citizens to have common experiences, which provide a kind of social glue and help them to see they are engaged in a common endeavor. A world where people only read news they preselect creates a risk of social fragmentation.”
This is my greatest fear about Trust-aware Recommender Systems (or in general systems that personalize user experience): that people will be exposed only to what they already approuve and like.

This already happens to me in real life: most of the people I know are against the Iraq Invasion and I often (and wrongly) think that all the Italians share this opinion. Then, when I meet someone that agrees with this war, I am initially totally shocked. Using personalized services, it is even easier to never “meet” people who are not perfectly like-minded.
As Sunstein puts: “People who think the world economy is in trouble are likely, after discussion, to fear economic catastrophe”. This is a risk I often feel after discussions with activist groups I’m involved in.
Sunstein ends with: “Democracy is undermined when people choose to live in echo chambers of their own design”. About echo chambers, see Joi
Anyway Josh , the project’s Product Manager of Newsbot (the new personalized news-provider by Micro$oft), has some interesting points about how “personalized news – but when done well – (…) leads us even further away from Sunstein’s dystopic future”.
(Found via Erik)

3 thoughts on “Boycott the Daily Me!

  1. Tim Keller

    Echo chambers are definitely a problem to overcome. But I think reputation can play a role in the solution. Imagine a discussion system that uses reputation as a moderation function, but still leaves room for people of opposing views to debate each other. Use something like Advogato that divides users into levels based on number of inbound reputation links, then create forums that are read-only for all users below that level, but read-write for users of that level or above (whatever their orientation). You’d see a significant rise in the S/N ratio, without suffering from single-viewpoint echo-chamberism. And for those who want to get down-&-dirty, you have the lower levels to hash things out in a more lively environment.

    What do you think? Sounds feasable?


  2. paolo

    I call “global trust metrics” metrics that assign the same value of trustworthiness to every user (pagerank for instance). “local trust metrics” instead assign to the same target user different trust values based on the source user, they keep my personal views of the world into account. I don’t like “global trust metrics” because they tend to standardize (if bush is good for the majority, then bush must be good for you too!). On the other hand, local trust metrics tend to increase the echo chamber effect. Probably the right approach is in the middle (as always)…

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