Alter

Another perspective on Algorithmic Filtering of Facebook

In a Nutshell

Alter is a plug-in for Facebook that enables Facebook users to understand the effects of behind-the-scenes algorithms that customise their personal News feeds.

Research

The initial goal of the research was to understand the user policies of digital communication services, to enable people to discuss wider outcomes of their actions in the digital world, and to think about terminologies like ‘user-friendliness’ with its positive and negative meanings.

Interviews conducted about digital communication habits with both users and experts almost always ended up being about Facebook’s News feed. Users often defined ‘scrolling’ as a toxic habit while the experts stated the risks behind the predictive algorithms and filtering of the News feed. After combining the interviews with the insights from the desk research, some questions that may direct the concept appeared: What happens if we change the content where people look everyday, their News feed? What if we show to people each others content? Would that be thought-provoking?

For more details, please see the project’s research blog.

Concept

Alter emerged as a means to discuss the effects of the tailored information flow of Facebook, that leaves less room for the chance encounters that bring different opinions, insights and learnings.

Alter generates visualisations of the way that content is fed to our News feeds and allows an individual to exchange his or her News feed with other individuals,  giving each one a way to visualise and disrupt the content they typically see — their “filter bubble.”

Final Delivery

The concept is communicated by a click-through prototype of a plug-in for Facebook. The initial research of the project about the ‘Filter Bubble in Facebook’ translated into a visualisation that helps users understand their filter bubble. It gives users an opportunity to see Facebook as a map that can be navigated through three views: News Feed, Network and Universe.

Specifically, the News feed View is further developed as a Chrome plug-in for user testing. This view provides the opportunity to swap News feeds with another person, either your polar opposite or somebody similar to you, to be able to show the type of information that person is exposed to on a daily basis.

You can download the plug-in from the project website.

 

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