Algorithmic filter bubbles: Myth or serious threat?

  • Martina Skrubbeltrang Mahnke (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesLecture and oral contribution


Contributing to the idea and the ideal of the ‘information citizen’ has been subject to many theoretical inquiries by philosophers (e.g. Habermas, 1971), sociologists (e.g. Schütz, 1946) and media researchers (e.g. Dahlgreen, 2009); moreover, it is a daily practical attempt carried out by media professionals and journalists. Editorial routines and standards have been established to ensure the highest quality possible and to strive towards what is commonly referred to the objectivity of news. With the increasing penetration of algorithmic processes, such as algorithmic filtering, sorting and ranking this effort seems under threat. According to Internet activist Pariser (2011) so-called ‘filter bubbles’ prevent users from receiving balanced and opposing information; in short users seem to be trapped in their own filter bubble instigated by intransparent and rigid algorithms.
This talk takes a critical look at the concept of algorithmic filter bubbles through the investigation of algorithms-in-practice: patents and interview material with various programmers is presented. The analysis of the empirical data suggests that the concept of the filter as a powerful theoretical lens, however, it does not seem to hold in practice. Hence, an understanding of algorithms as ‘communicative others’ (Gunkel, 2012) is suggested. In conclusion, actions possibilities for users and regulators are discussed.
Period13 Jul 2016
Held atCenter for Information and Bubble Studies - University of Copenhagen, Denmark