inkwell.vue.468 : Ethan Zuckerman - Rewire: Rethinking Globalization in an Age of Connection
permalink #26 of 29: Ethan Zuckerman (ethanzrewire) Tue 9 Jul 13 12:45
Jon, Krebs's research is really helpful stuff. There's been lots of
research on left/right polarization around media and US politics - I
review quite a bit of it in the book. It's interesting to think about
the books that he sees appealing to both left and right - some are
simply very compelling and well-written, while one seems to be being
bought by the right to better understand strategy from the left.

I wonder whether there's an experiment to be done asking people who
hold a position - political, religious, or otherwise - to recommend
books or readings that they see as best explaining their beliefs to
outsiders. For instance, if I strongly believe in the need to reform
criminal justice in America, do I choose Michelle Alexander's masterful
"The New Jim Crow", a thoughtful scholarly work that's aimed at arming
people like me who already see racial injustice in the system, or a
personal prison memoir, like Damien Echol's "Life after Death"? I
suspect the second is far more likely to reach an audience that doesn't
already share my concerns and passions...
inkwell.vue.468 : Ethan Zuckerman - Rewire: Rethinking Globalization in an Age of Connection
permalink #27 of 29: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 10 Jul 13 13:55
It's an interesting problem, trying to figure out what any one person
would find compelling that's also off-radar for them. It would be
interesting to see services like Netflix create more complex algorithms
for offering suggestions, combining comfortable offerings with those
that are more challenging. One issue I see is that personalization is
constrained by limited profile data. Amazon and Netflix haven't
gathered enough about me to make nuanced recommendations. 

I'd like to see a system that is explicit about the challenge: here is
where you go if you're ready to have your assumptions questioned, even
shaken. There are people who would readily go there, maybe others will

I'm thinking a lot about how we're programmed by our many feeds and
social interactions online. That's been my life for the last few
decades, and I evolved along with the technology for social
interaction, what we've variously referred to with phrases like
"virtual community," "social software," and "social media." A week or
so ago I realized that I had no idea what my life is outside that
context, so I decided to put social media aside for a month and get
some perspective. I wonder if that wouldn't be a useful step for many
of us? Disconnect for a while, sort out our thinking, then reconnect in
a more productive and disciplined way? Climb out of the torrent, walk
downstream to calmer waters.
inkwell.vue.468 : Ethan Zuckerman - Rewire: Rethinking Globalization in an Age of Connection
permalink #28 of 29: Ethan Zuckerman (ethanzrewire) Thu 11 Jul 13 20:23
Jon, I think there's great benefit to stepping back from social media
and interacting with the real world. On questions of diversity -
cognitive and otherwise - I think there are lots of ways we can think
about increasing diversity in the physical world as well. One of the
analogies I make in the book is about wandering, looking at the paths
we take through physical space and choosing to stray off them
occasionally. This might mean spending time in different parts of a
city or choosing to interact with a different set of people.

I'm interested in the same analogies online. You note that it's hard
for Netflix or Amazon to personalize without enough data. That's true -
to be able to help you wander, a predictive system needs to know what
ruts you're in. My guess is that we need systems that help us discover
new things that we're in control of, not just systems run by people
trying to market to us. I'd be far more willing to share personal data
if I were discovering new ideas, new things to read and new places to
wander than if I was helping an algorithm tailor purchasing

I want to thank you, and everyone who's participated, for a really
enjoyable conversation. I appreciate the chance to discuss the book and
the ideas in it at length - thanks for the space and the opportunity.
inkwell.vue.468 : Ethan Zuckerman - Rewire: Rethinking Globalization in an Age of Connection
permalink #29 of 29: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 12 Jul 13 08:41
That last exchange points to interesting questions about
personalization, privacy, data ownership, and the future of the
Internet. Unfortunately we're out of time. Thanks, Ethan, for your
compelling book and this great conversation!

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