Phase VIII: A Simpler Research Plan to Confirm the Filter Bubble

Essentially, all I need to prove at this exploratory stage is that people do perpetuate their own filter bubbles. I would then take that proof and go work on my initial rapid prototypes to user test with.

After running through several preliminary versions of the research plan, I’ve decided to adopt a remarkably simpler one, with the help of the amazing PhD candidate Ahmed (who’s working on a similar agenda for his thesis, with different end goal and approach). The steps are as follows:

Step 1: Prove the Filter Bubble Phenomena

I plan to run this initial exercise with 10 participants, and you can find the detailed research session report here.

The master plan to prove the Spherology, aka Filter Bubble, and how people perpetuate it by clicking only on things that they’re familiar with (A-E stand for each of 5 participants).
  1. Collect 20 newsfeed posts (mainly news articles), 10 left-leaning and 10 right-leaning
  2. Present the 20 posts to 5 Left-leaning participants, and 5 Right-leaning participants
  3. Ask them to choose 10 posts that grab their attention
  4. From those 10, choose 3–5 posts that they would actually read.
The 20 different posts used for the initial research exercise

Step 2: Unpack the UI of the article post

To discover what specific elements really affect the readership and the wish to engage, I took the same posts and separated each post into three parts: 1. the name of the source (i.e. publication or a friend) and their commentary; 2. the photo of the article; 3. the headline and a short quote from the article; and 4. the bottom-most social engagement bar (likes, comments, number of shares). On a simple scale system, I labeled one end “Would engage” and the other “Wouldn’t engage.” I then asked the participants:

  1. If you were to lay each of the elements out on this scale system, how would you organize them?
  2. How are you deciding what to engage with? What factors are being considered in your decision? (for a more qualitative data)

You can find the detailed findings report in this post.

Design Implications

Come up with redesigns targeting three different levels:

  1. News story level
  2. Social engagement level
  3. General feed level

Some design ideas for the prototype testing phase:

  • simultaneous quadrant display
  • slider to show: familiar? middle? extreme? (could be a paper prototype)
  • carbon credit
  • a filter to categorize by diff friend groups (sort by: family, friends, leanings, colleagues…)

Also important to figure out is: what are the different theories of change connected to each redesign?

Next steps

  1. Unpack this initial round of interview sessions, see what patterns there are, and let it inform the redesign at the news story/post-level.
  2. Come up with the other 2–3 redesigns, and research by design.
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