[Researchers] Eduardo Graells-Garrido at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona [and] Mounia Lalmas and Daniel Quercia, both at Yahoo Labs, say they’ve hit on a way to burst the filter bubble.
Their idea is that although people may have opposing views on sensitive topics, they may also share interests in other areas. And they’ve built a recommendation engine that points these kinds of people towards each other based on their own preferences.
The result is that individuals are exposed to a much wider range of opinions, ideas and people than they would otherwise experience. And because this is done using their own interests, they end up being equally satisfied with the results…
They found over 40,000 Twitter users who had expressed an opinion using the hashtags such as #pro-life and #pro-choice. They trimmed this group by choosing only those who gave their location as Chile and by excluding those who tweeted rarely. That left over 3000 Twitter users.
The team then computed the difference in the views of these users on this and other topics using the regularity with which they used certain other keywords. This allowed them to create a kind of wordcloud for each user that acted like a kind of data portrait.
They then recommended tweets to each person based on similarities between their word clouds and especially when they differed in their views on the topic of abortion.
The results show that people can be more open than expected to ideas that oppose their own. It turns out that users who openly speak about sensitive issues are more open to receive recommendations authored by people with opposing views, say Graells-Garrido and co.
They also say that challenging people with new ideas makes them generally more receptive to change. That has important implications for social media sites. There is good evidence that users can sometimes become so resistant to change than any form of redesign dramatically reduces the popularity of the service. Giving them a greater range of content could change that.