Breaking the filter bubble: democracy and design

It has been argued that the Internet and social media increase the number of available viewpoints, perspectives, ideas and opinions available, leading to a very diverse pool of information. However, critics have argued that algorithms used by search engines, social networking platforms and other large online intermediaries actually decrease information diversity by forming so-called “filter bubbles”. This may form a serious threat to our democracies. In response to this threat others have developed algorithms and digital tools to combat filter bubbles. This paper first provides examples of different software designs that try to break filter bubbles. Secondly, we show how norms required by two democracy models dominate the tools that are developed to fight the filter bubbles, while norms of other models are completely missing in the tools. The paper in conclusion argues that democracy itself is a contested concept and points to a variety of norms. Designers of diversity enhancing tools must thus be exposed to diverse conceptions of democracy.

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