Inkwell: Authors and Artists
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...
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 follow. 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.
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 recommendations. 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.
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! Goodreads for Rewire: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16233761-rewire Rewire on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rewire-Digital-Cosmopolitans-Age-Connection/dp/039308283 0/
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