Designing and Studying Better Tools for Presenting Political Diversity Online
Time: Thursdays, from 4PM to 5PM
The Internet gives individuals more choice in political news and information sources and more tools to filter out disagreeable information. Citing the preference described by selective exposure theory—that people prefer information that supports their beliefs and avoid counter-attitudinal information—observers warn that people may use these tools to access agreeable information and live in ideological echo chambers, increasing the polarization of different political groups and decreasing society's ability to solve problems. In this research group, we design and study ways to increase people's awareness of the bias in their own reading and to help them find more balanced or diverse sources of news.
Previously, colleagues and I have developed algorithms to select for more diverse news, as well as the Balancer extension for the Chrome browser. Balancer (http://balancestudy.org/balancer) reveals the lean of one's news reading and offers recommended alternative sources or stories.
In the second quarter of this research group, we will continue to develop and improve the Balancer extension based on what we have learned so far, and possibly releasing the extension for Chrome. We also may continue work on comparing and and improving algorithms that select diverse news content based on link, vote, or traffic data. Development of new tools, in addition to improving existing ones, is also a possibility.
If you would like to join the group (for 1–3 credit hours of credit/no credit grade in HCDE 496/596), please send an email to Sean Munson (email@example.com) with a few paragraphs describing why you are interested in the project, your relevant skills, and the number of credits you are seeking. Meetings are mandatory for all registered students.
Time: Tuesdays from 4:00PM - 5:00PM
(may be rescheduled if this is a conflict for too many interested students—you are interested but cannot make this time, please contact me anyway)
Hundreds of applications—online, on phones, and on mobile devices—are available to help people manager their health and wellness. Despite this broad adoption in the marketplace, the extent to which they help people, and who they can most help, are not generally well understood.
I'm interested in developing applications, particularly social applications, intended to improve two primary health and wellness outcomes and behaviors. The first is general feelings of happiness and meaning. Here, I draw Positive Psychology exercises and ask how they can be made stickier or more effective by building online and/or social versions of them; one such application is Three Good Things (3GT: http://www.threegthings.net/). 3GT has faced some adoption issues, and I hope that we can improve its design before launching a broader field trial. We also may choose to develop new interventions.
The second is physical activity, which can lead to improved mental and physical health. There, I've developed an iOS application (GoalPost) that helps people set physical activity goals, monitor their progress, and share their progress with friends. It's a bit of out date, and needs some work, and then I would like to use it as a platform to test a variety of persuasive features. If one or more students with experience developing for iOS can participate this quarter, we should be able to refine the design and prepare a new version for release.
The Internet and the 2012 Election
In this directed research group, we will take advantage of the 2012 US national election cycle to plan, conduct, and review studies. Potential topics include:
- Understanding people's preferences for accessing political news and opinion online
- The consequences of discovering friends' political preferences through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter
- Processes for correcting rumors or counterfactual political information when it appears online
- Design and deployment of new tools for political news access and/or discourse
- [your idea here]
For some background reading, please see references at http://www.smunson.com/teaching/election2012/. Because the quarter starts rather close to the election, participants will be expected to be fairly self-starting. The format of the research group will be weekly meetings, in which we present and critique each others' research plans and progress. On some weeks, we may also read a recent paper in this area and discuss it as a group.
To apply, please submit a *maximum* one page (single-spaced) research statement, describing a research question, motivating/related literature, and how you might study it, and a short summary of your skills and experience. You may submit this individually or in a group. This statement need not be perfect, but should give a clear indication of what you might want to study. If your proposed project requires skills beyond your own, be sure to say so. We will use these statements to form groups at the start of the quarter or earlier, and we will get going immediately.
Time and location are TBD.