Last week we talked about the idea of who controls and makes the content that is being distributed nowadays. This was very interesting to discuss because they conjure up to different responses in people.
When you say someone is “controlling” the content that you receive, generally people get a bit taken back and want to find out more and discover how to stop someone else from “controlling” it. But in reality, you are controlling it most of the time. The algorithms that are being used are looking at what you do and then curating your content around those things.
This is great if you have a hobby and want to spend time online doing more things and reading more things around that hobby. This is not so great though if you want to see more different types of things. In order to see more, you have to make an effort to go out and find things because the social media systems that you are using are not going to offer you “off the wall/out of the box” things to view. This is very obvious to me on my news feed on my phone. It is very, very travel-centric. This is simply because I open and read those articles so obviously, I want to read more of them. In order to change my feed, I need to actively search for other things that I am interested in. One of the best ways I have found to do this is to share my new service with someone else. My mother and I, for example, read the same news app but not always the same articles. She will often highlight an article that I have completely skipped that I, in fact, enjoyed reading when I opened it. The problem comes in that fact that this does not happen in a way that affects my algorithms. So I still mostly get the travel stuff on my phone. I wonder if there is a way that we could link our accounts so that we could affect each other’s algorithms! Hmmmmm, new app idea anyone!
Anyway… This system of being curated too is I think one of the issues we have today with people finding themselves in echo chambers. In this instance, I mean an echo chamber in the sense that you are surrounded in your social media by people that the algorithms see you as being like-minded with. This is in my opinion what is leading to the current tension in many areas of the world. You start out in this echo chamber of something that sounds positive or helpful but it can turn into something else and begin to get out of control without people realizing it. This was mentioned in the block post I wrote earlier about the Facebook group that was set up around the Arab Spring. https://caryghart.wordpress.com/2018/10/03/the-social-media-conundrum/
It is similar to the story about how to boil a frog. I won’t go into the details, but when things change subtly and slowly you are less likely to notice those changes this can lead to people ending up in quite radical groups and not realizing it until someone points it out from the outside. It is the same thing as the gang mentality that I was recently reading about that caused the murder of two men in Mexico. I think it is work to make sure that we curate our content but I also think that we can’t complain about being curated to if we aren’t willing to do the work to challenge the algorithms ideas about who we are and what we need to see.