The Volokh Conspiracy

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The Filter Bubble (with SF Author/Futurist David Brin, Prof. Jane Bambauer, Prof. Mark Lemley, Prof. Ted Parson, and Me)

Our video is now posted.


My fellow panelists and I had a great conversation about this Friday:

The Filter Bubble: What's the Problem, and what (if anything) should be done about it? Social media and other online information sources are charged with creating "filter bubbles": sheltered clusters of people with similar views, which foster polarized opinions and partisan zeal, degrade civility, and destabilize politics. Is this phenomenon real? Is it new? How does it work? And if its effects are that bad, how can they be fixed?

And now the recording is online; just click here. (David Brin is missing in the image reproduced here, and I look like I'm falling asleep, but both David and an awake version of me appear on the video itself.)


NEXT: I learned a new phrase today: "Moral Suasion"

Free Speech

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4 responses to “The Filter Bubble (with SF Author/Futurist David Brin, Prof. Jane Bambauer, Prof. Mark Lemley, Prof. Ted Parson, and Me)

  1. “SHOW MORE” on the youtube page leaves out David Brin.

  2. Perhaps the problem is the opposite?

    “Forever” we lived in happy little bubbles, blissfully unperturbed by those crazy people who vote wrong every 4 years.

    Now we are subjected to wrongthink 24/7.

    Maybe the problem isn’t the bubble, but the fact that this bubble now gets a steady dose of the worst ideas from all the other bubbles.

    Make the bubbles stronger, not weaker…

  3. The phenomenon is real, and it is new. It was enabled when internet technology enabled publishers for the first time to sell content to readers one story at a time. And also enabled publishers to monitor readers’ online behavior to discover which stories they might prefer.

    Previously, publishers did not sell content items individually. They assembled multiple content items chosen to mobilize an audience. Depending on the publisher’s business model, that audience might be more or less numerous, and more or less diverse. Then publishers sold that audience—however structured— en masse to advertisers attracted by the numbers and characteristics of audience members collectively. A serendipitous side-benefit of that business model was that each audience member was exposed willy-nilly to a range of content and opinion not chosen with that person specifically in mind.

    By delivering a novel ability to use one story to sell to an advertiser a tiny share of advertising response from one reader—and then aggregating those transactions without limit—the internet overturned that previous business model. As it did so, the internet also enabled exclusion from each reader’s attention any content or opinion not specifically chosen to match previously-measured reader proclivities.

    In short, the current internet business model does create filter bubbles. It also makes creating them an astoundingly lucrative business.

    1. Never studied the Golden Age of Yellow Journalism? The problem may be real but it is very far from new.