Filter bubbles and the climate wars

Image by Volker Ballueder – click

I try to read opposing views often, as that pretty much fits my job description for running WUWT, but not everyone does this. Some people are so steeped in tribalism that they won’t even venture outside of their comfort zone to see what the other side is saying, and when offered information by “outsiders”, flatly refuse to even consider it or even become combative towards anyone that suggests it.  They tend to prefer being surrounded only by people they like and content that they agree with, and consider giving attention to any other views as “false balance”. Joe Romm and his Climate Progress blog is a good example of this, which is why he has such few comments these days. WUWT often posts press releases generated by the opposite side of the debate verbatim, so that we can consider the merit, I also post articles where I disagree with some of the content, but we also have our own problems like any collection of like minded people. On the plus side, love it or hate it, WUWT is read almost equally by both sides of the climate debate, if it weren’t, it would not have so many blog spawn.

From MIT technology Review, h/t to Steven Mosher

How to Burst the “Filter Bubble” that Protects Us from Opposing Views

Computer scientists have discovered a way to number-crunch an individual’s own preferences to recommend content from others with opposing views. The goal? To burst the “filter bubble” that surrounds us with people we like and content that we agree with.

 

The term “filter bubble” entered the public domain back in 2011 when the internet activist Eli Pariser coined it to refer to the way recommendation engines shield people from certain aspects of the real world.Pariser used the example of two people who googled the term “BP”. One received links to investment news about BP while the other received links to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, presumably as a result of some recommendation algorithm.This is an insidious problem. Much social research shows that people prefer to receive information that they agree with instead of information that challenges their beliefs. This problem is compounded when social networks recommend content based on what users already like and on what people similar to them also like.

This is the filter bubble—being surrounded only by people you like and content that you agree with.

And the danger is that it can polarise populations creating potentially harmful divisions in society.

==============================================================

Read the entire article here: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/522111/how-to-burst-the-filter-bubble-that-protects-us-from-opposing-views/

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1311.4658 : Data Portraits: Connecting People of Opposing Views

(Submitted on 19 Nov 2013)

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.

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Ed Mr. Jones

Echo Chambers are where critical thinking goes to die.

DayHay

I am part of a consensus, leave me alone.

PaulH

“Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?” – Dr. Phil Jones

Okay, how many of you Googled BP?
I got mostly finance stuff but it may be that the spill is now stale.

Will Nelson

I suppose it is wise for one to always be suspicious of what one “knows to be the truth”. I like the policy that once convinced of the truth of a thing, it is time to start trying to prove it wrong. Such is a good defense against spurious falsification but on the other hand it is good to be earlier rather than later to abandon an error.

Will Nelson

Michael Craig says:
December 6, 2013 at 9:38 am
Okay, how many of you Googled BP?
I got mostly finance stuff but it may be that the spill is now stale.
__________________
In the bubble man, me too…

Tim Walker

Thanks for this introspective post.

tadchem

On the topic of listening to the other side of an argument:
“You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgements about what is going on.” – Harry S. Truman
“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” – Sun
Tzu
The best wisdom is often old wisdom.

Merovign

Two major problems with this (worthy) process are the difficulty people have on a daily basis *verifying* the information they’re given, and what seems (and likely is) a generalized ramping up of hostility in communication, particularly political.
In other words, there are a lot of lies and a lot of angry people hurtling around, and I actually don’t have any kind of solution to that which would work for most people. You can tell people to do a ton of research on every factoid, but mostly that just isn’t going to happen.

TBraunlich

This problem is a real one for everyone interested in the climate issue. What makes it worse is that advocates for each side “preach to the choir”, using assumptions and language and rhetoric that either insults or turns off anyone from the other side who tries to read it. Each time I look at a pro-AGW essay hoping to learn something I seem to encounter an insult, a debatable assumption, and a couple of logical fallacies in the first two paragraphs … so I soon stop reading. I’m sure that the reverse is often also true for any believer who reads a skeptical essay.
Authors in the debate should address their essay to an objective neutral reader, forget the insults and justify their most basic assumptions and “facts” before using that as the starting point for their arguments. The other side might feel comfortable enough to read it then.
Having said that, from what I’ve seen most of the ugliness in the debate appears to be on the “believer” side — they often assume that global warming is a fact and that really there can be no “debate” because whatever arguments the skeptics try to make are necessarily “false equivalencies”, etc., and are not seriously considered and in fact are typically sneered at openly. Even if they have a good argument to make, who wants to read it when it has that kind of tone?

michael hart

Michael Craig says:
December 6, 2013 at 9:38 am
Okay, how many of you Googled BP?
I got mostly finance stuff but it may be that the spill is now stale.

Ditto, but I got the British Pharmacopoeia as well. I have certainly been fretting recently about how the G-corporation is filtering my search requests.

Lady Life Grows

OK, Michael, I got mainly general info, certainly including financials. Mostly company website, including one item about how they’re paying all legitimate (?) claims.
Spill IS now stale.
I got a letter from one sister today saying that the other one, a warmist believer, said that the British were exonerated on Climategate. Remember that whitewash? I replied that the whitewash was over two years old and how was it that she was just now hearing about it?
Your statement that WUWT is read almost equally by both sides of the Climate debate will be a huge help in getting my sisters and other caring people to read WUWT. The fact is, this site is probably the most scientific one in existence on the subject, so getting intelligent people to read it should result in a huge boost in real planetary understanding of the issues.

shaaady

Okay, how many of you Googled BP?
I got mostly finance stuff but it may be that the spill is now stale.

“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.”
Al Gore has a wonderful new paradigm for your google search! Let’s test it. Use the search term “fair trade coffee.” In seven pages of results, only four or five sites are critical of fair trade coffee. Everything else is in positively glowing terms.
But this is the way the cookie crumbles when you are the one who creates the new paradigm.
bing has one critical article of fair trade coffee in five pages.
Remember, then-Sec of State Hilary Clinton also thought that the internet needed to make sure all people have access to the same information. As a paradigm for internet use, this means that “asymetrical information” is a source of people coming into conflict.

Jenn Oates

One good thing about living in the state that I do (California) and being in the profession that I have chosen (science teacher in a public high school) is that I am constantly exposed to the “others” whether I like it or not. No better way to hone your thinking, sez I.

Alan Robertson

“Hello. my name is Alan and I am a Bubble Boy.”
“Hello, Alan.”

Doug Danhoff

I agree in principle, and am discouraged that neither side wishes debate. We claim that we do but often we are as abrasive in our dialog as are the alarmists. This contentiousness does not contribute to the exchange of views or the changing of hearts and minds. The more strident the opposition to your belief system, the stronger one holds to it regardless of the quality of the conflicting point of view. When we do get someone from the AGW side to converse we often treat them as we are treated by the “political” scientists.

AJB

Bayesian bullshit goes full circle. And the point is what exactly, is anyone surprised? The guy was a turgid old card shark for crying out loud. Just because we’ve seen a resurgence of this crap since the mid-fifties (and Sergey wotsisname made a buck or two out of it lately) doesn’t make it any better.
Any shmuck who thinks they can run the world on such nonsense has yet to attend their meeting with reality.

BioBob

tolerance is just so over-rated…. /sarc
Never underestimate the lizard-brain as a motivator in so much of the way we are. Billions of years of evolution is ignored at your peril.

Doug Danhoff says December 6, 2013 at 10:12 am
I agree in principle, and am discouraged that neither side wishes debate.

Huh?
‘They’ won’t come off their ‘reservations’ or out of their cloistered hallowed ivory towers!!! What are we to do, stand there with megaphones shouting across the moat?
When was the last time Algore debated anybody?
When we do get ‘one’ here (purported; most come here to troll), they seem to have the mental faculties of a 10 yr old (Sisi?) … I even try to engage the few socialists we have show up in an even-handed non-derogatory manner, JUST to get one under a microscope to see what makes them tick, but, they slink away, choosing not to engage even on a polite level …
.

Tim Clark

[ Michael Craig says:
December 6, 2013 at 9:38 am ]
On Bing-Archaeology.About.Com:
Definition of Before Present
http://archaeology.about.com/od/bterms/g/bp.htm
What does THAT mean. I’ve never been on that site? WUWT

Bruce Cobb

Hmmm… I see a problem with this. Back in 2007, I just assumed that CAGW was true, and anyone arguing against was probably an idiot. The truth was, though, that I had never tried doing any digging online about the subject, so at one point I did. I was actively looking for the arguments that were pro-manmade warming, in other words. It didn’t take me long, though, to begin smelling a rat, and the rest as they say, is history. The bottom line is, that if one is searching for the truth, regardless of where that truth leads them, then that is what they will find.

Hum, I listen to NPR, because it is receivable all the way to work. I pick up the Left of the Left, Minneapolis Star, I occasionally turn on our local “Democrat Party News Outlet” (known as WCCO television in Minneapolis) and I’m insular and hearing on the “conservative side” (because I read those dastardly RIGHT WING sources, like DRUDGE, and WUWT.
I KNOW many “liberals” (Through Church, certain social contacts, etc.) MANY of them that I know (with the exception of a couple with Libertarian leanings) TAKE IN EXCLUSIVELY LEFT LEANING, DEMOCRAT PARTY, LIBERAL media sources! (One older Gentleman at my health club, reads ONLY the New York Times, as the Minneapolis Star is “too conservative” for him!)
How do we spell “projection”???

Brian R

For news I always look at two different sources. Usually Fox News and CNN. I find that somewhere in between lies the truth. When it comes to climate science I can’t say I do the same thing. Since most of this debate occurs on blogs it’s difficult to find blogs on both sides of the debate that allow contrarian views to be expressed. That’s why I like WUWT.

jorgekafkazar

Joe who??
“You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgements about what is going on.” – Harry S. Truman
Today, you can never get any facts from any newspaper.
“Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?” – Mr. Phil Jones

Duster

Doug Danhoff says:
December 6, 2013 at 10:12 am

Good points. The problem really does lie in “belief systems,” as opposed to applying critical thought to a problem of natural science. Scientists acting as scientists discuss before debating. They want to be sure that everyone is on the same page. This is often assumed to be the case even though reading the opposing views often makes it clear that the discussants aren’t merely not on the same page, but, as grandmother used to say, “not singing from the same hymnal.”

Mike Maguire

I was at the gym last week talking about the CAGW myths with a friend that agrees with me. I was providing facts about CO2’s benefits and lack of data to support extreme weather increasing and so on.
I was on tv for 11 years and when I talk, can get pretty loud. The other guy is even louder when he speaks, so people on the other side of the gym could hear every word.
Suddenly, this guy we don’t know yells at the top of his lungs “You guys need to get the F out of here!”
Both of us chuckled and looked at him, then he said “No, get the F out of here now!”
We were speechless. My friend was leaving anyway and just said goodbye. I went over to the guy and apologized for offending him for being so loud. He would not respond. I got right in front of him and said “Did you hear me, I told you I was sorry for offending you!”
He responded finally by saying “well, I just don’t agree with anything you guys were saying and don’t want to hear about it”
I told him, “I understand exactly where you’re coming from more than you’ll ever know”
That’s the way it is.

Janice Moore

Willingness to examine the evidence for the other side’s arguments is good. Once it becomes clear that their “evidence” is merely speculation and conjecture, dismissing it and avoiding pointless discussion of it is called: discernment, or wisdom.
One need not intentionally associate with those who hold irrational views to be aware of what those views are. Whether one chooses to hang out with people one largely disagrees with has more to do with potentially persuading them to see it as you do than to being open to their views (or it may simply be because they are your friends). And, if they are your friends, to maintain that friendship, you would be wise to investigate their views from other sources. Nothing ruins a friendship faster than discussing political or religious differences. If they ever genuinely ask you a question, seeking to know the truth, then talk about it. In sum: it is not necessary and, sometimes, it is not wise, to hang out with the “other side” to know what they believe.
Moral: Beware of the fallacy of moral equivalency; not all positions are equally supported by reality and rational thought.
Ancient Wisdom:

“Those who walk with the wise grow wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

Proverbs 13:20.
There is a reason that new bank tellers are given real money to stare at and become very familiar with instead of dozens of examples of counterfeit money: they learn to recognize fact from fiction by knowing the facts very well.

Filter bubbles and the climate wars

I think a healthy free society must be an extremely argumentative and a very fierce independently thoughtful place.
I see the post implies our free society isn’t like that. I see the post implies our free society is unhealthy because many / most people have, for whatever reason, developed some preferences in the ideas they choose to associate with and ideas the choose to disassociate with.
Freedom of the intellect will produce free association of ideas. That is healthy, so I tend to disagree with the post’s implication of a problem in our free society.
John

Janice Moore

@ Mike Maguire (re: 11:04am) — You are a class act. That jerk (his language tells me that) was a deeply troubled AGW cult member, for sure! And I’m sure you don’t need me to say this, but, I will: Don’t ever stop talking about the truth — LOUDLY. GO, MIKE!
#(:))
@ Jorge Kafkazar — Yes, indeed. As Stan Stendera shared of his grandpa’s wisdom (and as many a wise person has said): You believe what you read in the newspapers until they write about something you know about.

Mike Smith

The science is settled.
Don’t confuse my clearly modeled warming trend with 20 years of observational data.

‘Filter bubbles’ were a predicted effect of the internet, right from the early days. One example (2008):
http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/expertsurveys/2008survey/internet_and_tolerance_anon_2020.xhtml
Respondents were asked to agree or disagree with an imaginary 2020 statement “Social tolerance has advanced significantly due in great part to the Internet. In 2020, people are more tolerant than they are today, thanks to wider exposure to others and their views that has been brought about by the Internet and other information and communication technologies.[…]“.
Only 33% agreed. 55% disagreed.
There were lots of really good thoughtful comments. Perhaps the one that best summed it up was: “People find more people like themselves online and so can stay fractured and not having to learn to get along with people.”

Mike Lowe

In Rotary, it has always been an accepted norm that you never discuss religion or politics. I have now found, through the belligerent reactions of fellow members, that in my Rotary, U3A, and Probus clubs, it is safest never to mention religion, politics, or CAGW. Maybe that is no change, on reflection, because CAGW certainly has become a modern religion!
Nice and warm down here in New Zealand, but could that possibly be because we are heading into summer?

Marcia Ferrell

Let me get this straight…
They take a guy who rides a Harley who is gay, and hook him up with a guy who rides a Harley who is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church?
Not just by random accident, but deliberately on purpose?
Good luck with that one.

Mike Maguire

Thanks Janice,
When I was much younger, I might have gotten into a fist fight with the guy but have learned a few of things.
1. People with strong opinions usually don’t have the ability to see objectively. Their view of the world or the topic is formed and they interpret new information based on that.
2. After being on television for several years, I leaned to present myself to the public in a certain, favorable way, regardless of how abusiveness or obnoxious somebody was. When you’re a weatherman/meteorologist, you become a target for jokes sometimes.
Instead of getting upset over somebody about to use me for a weather man joke, I would steal their “thunder”.
For instance,
Person: “Hey weatherman, whats the weather forecast!”
Meteorologist Mike: (sensing a joke) “Why are you asking me? I’m a weatherman and you know I’m just going to lie to you!”
Then everybody laughs.
The best part of acquiring that skill is that you always walk away smelling like a rose, even if being heckled by a nimrod. The other person looks bad and you can be proud of yourself or feel sorry for them.

john robertson

The simple phrase; “I don’t know” is the heart of intellectual freedom, the beginning of self knowledge and wisdom.
Bubble Filter, another expert from academia using too many words to state the obvious.
Feynman and Twain sum it up beautifully in their own way.
The certainty of fools will always be a curse upon the societies of mankind.
I do not believe that the majority of citizens are willfully blind,the ever shrinking visitation and comment reduction at the, protected from thinking, blogs is a reasonable indication of public distaste for willful blindness.

Werner Brozek

Anthony, I did interact with one of the sites you mentioned and found out that your are not using Kenji to Kenji’s full potential. 🙂
“You could be an expert reviewer for the IPCC. So could Anthony Watts’ dog Kenji.”

Janice Moore

@ blank Jim How are you? Did you and yours come through that ice storm okay? (good point at 10:29am, btw — and a certain socialist who waved that banner with religious zeal has apparently gone off in a permanent huff, this time…. and that is a pity)
@Mike Maguire — Cool (or, was that “partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers,” heh). When I grow up, I want to be like you.

Mac the Knife

Janice Moore says:
December 6, 2013 at 11:05 am
One need not intentionally associate with those who hold irrational views to be aware of what those views are.
Janice,
I think Ayn Rand said it best: Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it.

Henry

Very interesting read, thank you. Since I spend an almost equal amount of my precious web surfing time laughing at blogs such as SKS ans Climate Progress et al, I guess I’m out of the bubble? 😉

Paul Carter

As seen on The Prisoner (1967)
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=I6Ffr1U7KMY

DesertYote

The average liberals brain can’t even process anything that does not conform to their preprogrammed world-view. If by chance a lefty is shown an undeniable fact contrary to their beliefs, and they are actually able to see it, by tomorrow they will have forgotten because they literally have no place to store the event. This is what inductive pedagogy was created to do.

I truly believe that conservatives in the US are better at including other points of view than liberals are. Everywhere we look on TV we see lots of liberals, and not just on the news, but also on entertainment shows, also in the movies. College campuses are filled with liberals, we have to learn to tolerate liberals, but many liberals hardly come across a conservative. There just aren’t that many of them in Burkley, or on the Upper West side. I know that liberals will say, “but Foxnews is conservative”, but the truth is that every single Foxnews show presents the liberal side, maybe they present more conservatives,but they have the liberal side on every show. Liberal will also say “look at talk radio.” Ok, but do you liberals listen to talk radio to get the other side? Some of you do,but not very many.

The solution to filter bubbles in echo chambers: trolls with needles.

Janice Moore

Hi, Mac T.K.,
Great Ayn Rand quote. Thanks for sharing. While I can see that it nicely supports the main point of my 11:05am post, ….. I’m afraid I don’t see how the Rand quote logically follows from the selected words of mine you quoted. And if you can’t BELIEVE how dumb someone could be not to get that …. lol, look upon explaining that connection to me as a fun intellectual challenge!
Your Ally for Truth in Science,
Janice
*********************
@ Desert Yote — Did you ever find that lab notebook that you lost (hopefully not permanently!) in the storage unit debacle a few months ago? I prayed and was just hoping the answer was, “Yes.”

Don’t ask , don’t be told.

re: Janice Moore says December 6, 2013 at 11:51 am
Thanks for asking, Janice. Cities here are figuratively locked in the grip of this ice … my car is a literal ‘block of ice’ … temp is up to *only* 26 degrees so far and _no_ sign of thawing for another couple of days! Many others are without power (due to trees on power lines; this need not be the case, if proper trimming were followed or allowed) and in worse circumstances than we find ourselves (my trees, now gone/cut up for firewood, gave up the ghost a couple yrs back owing to drought and a late freeze after leafing-out one spring.)
.

Brian H

Marcia Ferrell says:
December 6, 2013 at 11:35 am
Let me get this straight…
They take a guy who rides a Harley who is gay, and hook him up with a guy who rides a Harley who is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church?
Not just by random accident, but deliberately on purpose?
Good luck with that one.

All part of the application of Harley Evolutionary Theory: Survival of the Fattest.

Larry Geiger

Some folks are programmed to believe drivel. My wife had a conversation with a young lady who with her boy friend are really into Philadelphia Experiment and Indigo Children. Most folks that frequent this blog and googling this stuff will put it aside within 5 minutes. These two have been researching it and getting sucked in for months. My gently, quiet, librarian wife is carefully puncturing her bubble. My fear is that once off this they will find UFOs, Area 51 or Pyramids. Oh well. So, what color is your aura?