Public Lecture: 'Are Filter Bubbles Real?'

Lecture Details:

Date: 22 May 2019

Time: 11:00am-12:30pm

Venue: EA.1.31, Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University

The success of political movements that appear to be immune to any factual evidence that contradicts their claims – from the Brexiteers to the ‘alt-right’, neo-fascist groups supporting Donald Trump – has reinvigorated claims that social media spaces constitute so-called ‘filter bubbles’ or ‘echo chambers’. But while such claims may appear intuitively true to politicians and journalists – who have themselves been accused of living in filter bubbles –, the evidence that ordinary users experience their everyday social media environments as uniform and homophilous spaces is far more limited. For instance, a 2016 Pew Center study has shown that only 23% of U.S. users on Facebook and 17% on Twitter now say with confidence that most of their contacts’ views are similar to their own. 20% have changed their minds about a political or social issue because of interactions on social media. Similarly, large-scale studies of follower and interaction networks on social media show that such networks are often thoroughly interconnected and facilitate the flow of information across boundaries of personal ideology and interest, except for a few especially hardcore partisan communities. This talk explores the evidence for and against echo chambers and filter bubbles. It moves the present debate beyond a merely anecdotal footing, and offers a more reliable assessment of this purported threat.

Professor Axel Bruns Biography

Prof. Axel Bruns is a Professor in the Digital Media Research Centre(opens in a new window) at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. He is the author of Are Filter Bubbles Real? (forthcoming 2019), Gatewatching and News Curation: Journalism, Social Media, and the Public Sphere (2018), Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage (2008), and Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production (2005), and a co-editor of Digitizing Democracy (2019),the Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics (2016), Twitter and Society (2014), A Companion to New Media Dynamics (2012), and Uses of Blogs (2006). His current work focusses on the study of user participation in social media spaces such as Twitter, and its implications for our understanding of the contemporary public sphere, drawing especially on innovative new methods for analysing 'big social data'. His research blog is at http://snurb.info/, and he tweets at @snurb_dot_info(opens in a new window). He currently serves as President of the Association of Internet Researchers(opens in a new window).

This lecture is jointly funded by Institute for Culture and Society's Digital Life Program and the Digital Humanities Research Group.

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