Recent Studies Suggest…

Today we are talking about going upstream on news items that cite scholarly sources and figuring out how to read them laterally.

Filter bubble follow up

I was feeling irresponsible since last class when I claimed that Facebook could determine the amount of time you spend reading posts and factored that into their News Feed algorithm; I didn’t cite any sources and so I worried that I too was a victim of #fakenews. So I tracked down a source:

Two software engineers at Facebook wrote this piece in 2015, telling the public that the company “…discovered that if people spend significantly more time on a particular story in News Feed than the majority of other stories they look at, this is a good sign that content was relevant to them.” As a result, if you are on Facebook and a post “was on the screen for more time than other posts that were in your News Feed, [Facebook’s algorithms] infer that it was something you found interesting and [it] may start to surface more posts like that higher up in your News Feed in the future.” So again, you do not have to like, comment, share, or otherwise engage with the news item in order for it to be factored into your future News Feed results.

Relatedly, Wired ran a story on Tuesday about Facebook’s history of control with its algorithm when the stakes involved jeopardizing its $470+ billion market value. Hopefully we will talk more about algorithms in the upcoming second unit.

According to a Recent Study…

For your 5th blog post I asked you to go upstream on a news report that cites a recent study. There were a number of news stories to choose from in the headlines yesterday, including:

These were just a few. Did anyone choose these news sources or follow up on a similar study?

  • How did your searches go? Did anyone find an impact factor? Did you use Google Scholar?
  • Did you “accurately summarize the state of research and the consensus of experts in a given area, taking into account majority and significant minority views” as Caulfield suggests?  How hard was this, being an outsider? What does Caulfield say about this? Hint:

Often you are not in a position to critically read original scholarly research because it take many years to develop the knowledge and literacies required to become an expert. This expertise can be observed if you try to pick up a journal from any given field. What makes these journals really credible, however, is the process of peer review. What is peer-review? The library at NC State explains it quite succinctly in this YT video:

Yet, for all of the credibility peer-reviewed journals muster, sometimes these journals are not even immune to the effects of the web. Consider this article, “The Case for Colonialism,” which was published in Third World Quarterly last month.

Do some quick Google searching to find out about how this was received by the wider academic community, and what other sources say about this journal and the author. Are they the same? Although this is a rare case, why is it important to read laterally? What else might we find when we read laterally?

Homework for Tuesday, 10/3

  • Browse the “Fieldguide” section of Caulfield (look in the Table of Contents from the main page) and skim sections that interest you.
  • In your 6th WordPress post, briefly propose 3 different possible claims to fact-check for your final Truth-o-meter post. This is the post that is worth 50% of your unit grade — re-read the assignment page for details and look at my example. Use a numbered list format in WordPress to separate these 3 claims and write a paragraph (¶) for each that makes a case for why it would be a good choice for a longer, ~1,000-word post. You might consider re-reading the first row of the rubric, as well as conduct some preliminary fact-checking to find out if your claim will be a good choice for this assignment. In other words, this is your chance to do the preliminary research that will help you be successful. We’ll share these with each other in class on Tuesday. Does everyone feel like they have good places to look for potential claims?

More Bubbles

Blue feed, red feed

For homework you blogged about the conservative, liberal, and mainstream filter bubbles your groups described on Thursday. You were asked questions about how these feeds shared or isolated certain stories, provided sources and/or links, or were credible after reading laterally. Two questions:

  • What did you write about? What surprised you?
  • What claims did you encounter that are just begging to be checked?
  • If there’s time, let’s compare filter bubbles for coverage of the national anthem during NFL games that were played on Sunday.

Filter bubbles, continued

I asked you to watch this TED Talk by Eli Pariser for today on filter bubbles, so let’s begin by making this 2011 talk more relevant. In your groups, take 10-15 minutes to read the Pariser quotation and complete the related task. Be ready to share your findings with the class and explain how they demo the aspect of filter bubbles Pariser is discussing in your assigned quotation.

Group 1

“Even if you’re logged out, one engineer told me, there are 57 signals that Google looks at — everything from what kind of computer you’re on to what kind of browser you’re using to where you’re located — that it uses to personally tailor your query results. Think about it for a second: there is no standard Google anymore.”

Task: Do a search for “Google Analytics” and see what this tool can do. What some of the features of Analytics that any web designer can use to track or influence readers?

Image result for Google Analytics

Group 2

“There are a whole host of companies that are doing this kind of personalization. Yahoo News, the biggest news site on the Internet, is now personalized — different people get different things. Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the New York Times — all flirting with personalization in various ways. And this moves us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see.”

Task: Which of your online accounts have personalization settings? Which of these can you turn off? Do some poking around the web to see if you can find advice on this and be ready to share some tips with us.

Image result for settings "google news"

Group 3

“…what’s in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But the thing is that you don’t decide what gets in. And more importantly, you don’t actually see what gets edited out.

Task: Visit the site Blue Feed, Red Feed, play around with the filter bubbles, and read the methodology. Be ready to explain it to the class. 

Image result for blue feed red feed

Group 4

“What we’re seeing is more of a passing of the torch from human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones. And the thing is that the algorithms don’t yet have the kind of embedded ethics that the editors did. So if algorithms are going to curate the world for us, if they’re going to decide what we get to see and what we don’t get to see, then we need to make sure that they’re not just keyed to relevance. We need to make sure that they also show us things that are uncomfortable or challenging or important ”

Task: What are some of the factors that go into Facebook’s algorithms? List them and tell us which of these give users some control. 

Image result for starred friends settings facebook


Homework for Thursday, 9/28

  1. Read Caulfield’s chapters on using scholarly sources to read laterally, including:
  1. Use your 5th WordPress post to go upstream on a news report that cites a recent study. (For some of you who have already blogged about a recent study, feel free to pick up where you left off.) If you’re stuck, type “recent study” into Google and click the “News” tab at the top. Like so:

Once you find a news story that cites a study or piece of scholarship, go upstream to find that original study. [Note: You may have to log in to Rowan’s library to access some of these.]

Even if you cannot find the actual study, use the strategies from the chapters above to check the credibility of the journal and the expertise of the author(s). If you get stuck on one strategy, discuss it in your post, but move to another. Not all journals will have an impact factor and not all authors can be easily found in Google Scholar, but you should seek both. Ultimately your goal is to use these search strategies to “accurately summarize the state of research and the consensus of experts in a given area, taking into account majority and significant minority views.”