Chrissy Clary

ponder. conspire. digitize.

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What is the effect of
algorithmically delivered news?

About 6-in-10 Americans get news from social mediaAlgorithmically delivered news that is based on user actions is reducing the diversity of the news we receive increasing the echoing of ideas.

I was lucky enough to work in a real newsroom right before the industry started to tumble. Every day, the editors gathered at 10 a.m. to discuss what would make the paper the next day. It was not unusual for a heated argument to erupt over what story should be featured. These people believed in what they were doing, they wore their ethics on their sleeves, and they cared deeply about the community they influenced. They were the gatekeepers.

Today, much of our news is delivered through social media platforms. According to the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of US adults get their news from social media (Gottfried and Shearer, 2016):

News plays a varying role across the social networking sites studied. Two-thirds of Facebook users (66%) get news on the site, nearly six-in-ten Twitter users (59%) get news on Twitter, and seven-in-ten Reddit users get news on that platform. On Tumblr, the figure sits at 31%, while for the other five social networking sites it is true of only about one-fifth or less of their user bases (Gottfried and Shearer, 2016).

Reddit, Facebook and Twitter users most likely to get news on each site
The thing is, there is no daily editor meeting at Facebook. There are no local groups of people or community members deciding what is important. The news is being delivered to you algorithmically based on a variety of data points gathered by that particular platform to identify your likes, friends, interest, and actions. Such formulas for news delivery only take you into account. Does this method really give you the information you need to be a healthy, contributing part of a local community? Isn’t that what the editors were doing?

In a video posted in the Facebook Newsroom, Adam Mosseri, VP of product management for News Feed, explains how News Feed works. He also comments that the goal is to “connect people with the stories that matter most to them” (Mosseri, 2016).

In 2016, Facebook updated the News Feed algorithm. Now, “what you see will depend more on who your friends are, what they share, what you click on (Sunstein, 2017).”

News Feed uses data on its users to make decisions about what those users most likely want to read. Thus, News Feed is helping us sort through thousands of articles and delivering exactly what we want, when we what it (Mosseri, 2016). That doesn’t sound so bad, right?

In an attempt to deliver the news you are most likely to interact with, News Feed appears to be strengthening the echo-chamber effect. With regard to media, the echo-chamber effect occurs when when your opinions and preferences are echoed back at you.

As a point of reference, an echo chamber can be described as “a bounded, enclosed media space that has the potential to both magnify the messages delivered within it and insulate them from rebuttal” (Jamieson and Cappella, 2010).

In an opinion piece for Wired Magazine, Kartik Hosanagea, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, calls echo chambers problematic because “social discourse suffers when people have a narrow information base with little in common with one another (Hosanagea, 2016).”

Is his book #Republic, Cass Sunstein cites research by Facebook employees that appears to indicate that the algorithms are responsible, in part, for our political echo chambers: “Evidence shows the algorithm suppresses exposure to diverse content by 8 percent for self-identified liberals and 5 percent for self-identified conservatives” (2017).

In his book The Internet of Us, Michael Patrick Lynch raises the concern that only reading about the things we already agree with is giving rise to “group polarization – that we are becoming increasingly isolated tribes (2016).”

Wasn’t the Internet supposed to open us all up to new people and cultures? It appears the opposite is happening. We are being profiled based on our online actions. Without proactive steps on the part of the user to contradict these affects, it is possible that our scope of knowledge and understanding will shrink.

Next Read: What data do they have on us?

References:

Adam Mosseri explains how the Facebook News Feed works. (April 22, 2016).
Facebook Newsroom. Retrieved from https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/04/news-feed-fyi-from-f8-how-news-feed-works/

Lynch, M., P. (2016). The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data. Liverlight Publishing Company. New York.

Gottfried, J. & Shearer, E. (May, 26, 2016) News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016. Pew Research Center, Journalism & Media. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016

Hosagar, K. (November, 25, 2016). Blame the Echo Chamber on Facebook. But Blame Yourself, Too. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2016/11/facebook-echo-chamber/#slide-2

Lynch, M., P. (2016). The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data. Liverlight Publishing Company. New York.

Why I Marched

On January 21, my son, my mother and I participated in the Women’s March in Washington D.C. We made signs and braved a sea of protesters. I am a strong woman, but I wouldn’t consider myself the protesting type. So why go?

I think it was good ole women’s intuition. I was drawn to it. And well, maybe I am simply afraid.

  • Afraid of what may come next from Trump’s Twitter account.
  • Afraid of not seeing the day when women achieve the goal of equal pay for equal work (I really thought we were getting close on that one).
  • Afraid that my child will think that using hateful rhetoric to get ahead is in anyway acceptable.
  • Afraid that the feeling of nausea and dread that I’ve had since Trump won the election won’t go away.

The dread is still there, but the hope is back too. Bearing witness to the mass of people who stood up, squeezed in and braved overflowing port-o-potties to make it clear to the new administration that democracy is alive and well, and we will not, as many signs said, “go quietly back to the 1950s.”

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” — Bob Dylan

Learn more about the Women’s March.

Home Sweet Home

Going to school as an adult is an interesting thing. I think the experience becomes less chase and race and more about simple exploration. Most recently I’ve had the opportunity to take a Photography class with the Harvard Extension School, and while all of the classes I have taken with Harvard have delivered some type of enrichment, this one came in a much more physical form. This is because few people want photos of my home or office, so to pass the class I needed to get out of my routine and explore the world around me.

I like to travel and explore, this time I kept it local and explored my home state of Florida. I wanted to see what I might find if I looked more closely. The images that follow are of several explorative days on the road with my trusty sidekick Candy Clary (my Mom).

I wish everyone took the time to simply drive around and observe. Maybe a few of my shots could encourage others to stop at a few rusty road side attractions.

Enjoy,
Chrissy

De Leon Springs, originally a sugar plantations built by slaves, turned road side attraction (with Water Skiing Elephants), turned State Park, features a natural swimming pool. The pool is spring fed and maintains a constant temperature of 72 Degrees Fahrenheit. Photo taken on Dec. 12, by Chrissy Clary.

De Leon Springs, originally a sugar plantations built by slaves, turned road side attraction (with Water Skiing Elephants), turned State Park, features a natural swimming pool. The pool is spring fed and maintains a constant temperature of 72 Degrees Fahrenheit. Photo taken on Dec. 12, by Chrissy Clary.

Artist do their best to capture the beautiful day on the banks of the Silver Spring River. Photos taken on December 11, 2016 at Silver Springs State Park, By Chrissy Clary.

Artist do their best to capture the beautiful day on the banks of the Silver Spring River. Photos taken on December 11, 2016 at Silver Springs State Park, By Chrissy Clary.

Slick fish bones collect on the river bank in Tarpon Springs Florida a town known for sponges and Greek food. Photo Taken on December 10 in Tarpon Springs Florida, By Chrissy Clary.

Slick fish bones collect on the river bank in Tarpon Springs Florida a town known for sponges and Greek food. Photo Taken on December 10 in Tarpon Springs Florida, By Chrissy Clary.

While the Mermaids of Wiki Wachee are unforgettable Manatee sightings are pretty special too. This baby was hanging out with with the rest of her pod in the safety of the state park. Once upon a time manatee were thought to be mermaids so it is fitting that they would find a safe spot at Wiki Wachee springs, a place made famous for turning beautiful girls into underwater performers. Photos taken Dec. 12, 2016 at Wiki Wachee Springs State Park, FL, by Chrissy Clary.

While the Mermaids of Wiki Wachee are unforgettable Manatee sightings are pretty special too. This baby was hanging out with with the rest of her pod in the safety of the state park. Once upon a time manatee were thought to be mermaids so it is fitting that they would find a safe spot at Wiki Wachee springs, a place made famous for turning beautiful girls into underwater performers. Photos taken Dec. 12, 2016 at Wiki Wachee Springs State Park, FL, by Chrissy Clary.

 

For a short time when she was a child my mom lived in a town called Wiki Wachee Springs. If you have never heard of the place, In its hey day it was a pretty big deal. This small, Florida roadside attraction features an underwater stage where guests sit and watch women dance like mermaids might dance. In the 1960 millions of people attended shows, but today the the park is a shadow of its former self. Interestingly the ladies performing were were not those who appear on the Wiki Watchee Website, they were a group of former Mermaids who ranged in age from 50 something to 71. Photos taken Dec. 12, 2016 at Wiki Wachee Springs State Park, FL, by Chrissy Clary.

For a short time when she was a child my mom lived in a town called Wiki Wachee Springs. If you have never heard of the place, In its hey day it was a pretty big deal. This small, Florida roadside attraction features an underwater stage where guests sit and watch women dance like mermaids might dance. In the 1960 millions of people attended shows, but today the the park is a shadow of its former self. Interestingly the ladies performing were were not those who appear on the Wiki Wachee Website, they were a group of former Mermaids who ranged in age from 50 something to 71. Photos taken Dec. 12, 2016 at Wiki Wachee Springs State Park, FL, by Chrissy Clary.

Indian Summer Behives collect yummy honey. The Indian Summer Honey company migrates from Florida to Wissconsin and then back again to take advantage of prime honey making weather. Photo taken on December 11, 2016, at Indian Summer Honey Farm, by Chrissy Clary.

Indian Summer Beehives collect yummy honey. The Indian Summer Honey company migrates from Florida to Wisconsin and then back again to take advantage of prime honey making weather. Photo taken on December 11, 2016, at Indian Summer Honey Farm, by Chrissy Clary.

This De Leon Springs Park Ranger takes a break to catch up on the news while she waits on her next group of boat passengers. Photo taken December 11, 2016, at De Leon Springs State Park, by Chrissy Clary.

This De Leon Springs Park Ranger takes a break to catch up on the news while she waits on her next group of boat passengers. Photo taken December 11, 2016, at De Leon Springs State Park, by Chrissy Clary.

Love, Choice and Listening: Tips for reducing frustration in the design process

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I had an employee once who diligently worked on each design and architecture plan. She functioned as part architect and part UX strategist for the team. Working from home, she would spend hours perfecting one unadulterated proposal. The problem came in when she would present her plan to the customer. The meetings dissolved into an agitated debate over best practices and customer wants.

Often she had not spent much time hashing out needs and wants of the customer. Instead she trusted only what she learned from books and experts. She would become agitated with the customer and their stupidity. How could they not realize the gift she had just presented? Did they not understand the amount of time and knowledge that had been invested?

This is not a unique story in the business of communication design, but here are a few ideas for overcoming.

  1. Don’t fall in love with your work. For the creative type that can be easer said than done. But you will find, in the long run, that if you are open to critique and criticism your work will improve expediently. Everyone needs a good editor and if you are open to the feedback of both experts and laymen your perspective will be enhanced along with your talent. Yes it does sting a little, especially when you are first starting out, but over time your skin will become thicker.
  2. Always design two options. Not 3 or 15, just two. To many options can paralyze your decision maker. Design two options that you are happy with and proud of. When you present the two options to the customer they may feel like they have some control and voice in the design process leading to increased buy in. Together you can work through both designs and select the best bits from each. Designing a second option is also important for stretching yourself as a designer. While you may think the first design was perfect, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you come up with when you force yourself to create a second version.

For more on choosing: Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze, written by Alina Tugend and published by The New York Times

  1. For goodness sake, you are not designing the thing for you so listen to the people who hired you. And maybe don’t just listen, watch and observe a little too. Get up close and cozy with your customer’s process, who they are and what they need. It is your job to create a solution to their problem so make sure you fully understand the problem and then apply your expert opinion and best practices to that problem. Just don’t forget that while your understanding of UX or communications may far exceed theirs, their understanding of the business they run and the needs of their customers far exceeded yours.

More on listening: Why You Should Listen to the Customer, by Braden Kowitz, published by The Wall Street Journal

Creativity is hard work…

Sometimes we toil long hours and sometime the ideas just pop into our heads, like divine inspiration.  Brainstorming and white-boarding can help, but sometimes letting go a little is what you or your staff need in order to get the creative juices flowing. If you manage a creative workforce don’t forget to nurture their brilliance by allowing a little daydreaming from time to time.

This interesting infographic helps to remind me that while it ain’t digging ditches, it ain’t always easy either.

The path to creativity

The path to creativity

— Graphic borrowed from VirusComix.com
— Shared by Shelley H. Carson, PhD, Department of Psychology Harvard University

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