My filter bubbles and echo chambers

After spending just fifteen minutes looking through my Twitter feed, it was clear to me that there was a number of examples of filter bubbles and echo chambers on my account.

I use Twitter primarily for reading, apposed to Instagram which is much more visual. As a result of this, the vast majority of the posts on my feed were text-based and centred around three main categories.

A lot of my Twitter feed is musicians, usually members of my favourite bands or artists known to be controversial. I follow a lot of these because I like to know when they’re working on new projects and touring, and just simply what they’re doing.

The second main area on my Twitter is news outlets and political reporters. I like following these accounts because news is often tweeted as soon as it breaks and is very concise due to character limits. Individual reporters often live tweet events and share their views on current news stories which I find interesting. I try to keep these balanced but I tend not to follow publications that I frequently disagree with, perhaps resulting in an echo chamber.

The majority of the rest of my feed is personal accounts of friends and people I know.

It wasn’t until I examined my Twitter feed with filter bubbles and echo chambers in mind that I realised I was partly subject to them.

‘Troubled fantasist’ to Hollywood royalty: The New Yorker profiles Sam Mendes

The New Yorker’s profile of British director Sam Mendes covers both his struggles and remarkable successes. 

Mendes has collected thirty-four awards for forty-eight stage productions and seven feature films, including ‘Skyfall’ which grossed over a billion dollars at the box office. 

The profile by John Lahr, published in September 2018, covers a range of Mendes’ fascinating techniques, anecdotes and accolades. 

One such story centres around the director’s debut film, ‘American Beauty’. After shooting and wrapping the film, Mendes realised that ‘everything was wrong’. He sat down with the head of Dreamworks and ‘gave a forensic account of his missteps: bad performances, bad costumes, bad use of locations, badly shot.’ 

He asked to begin again. At great expense to the studio, they let him. The remade film went on to gross more than $356million and win six academy awards, including best director for Mendes. 

The profile delves into the movie mogul’s personal life too, discussing his troubled childhood, his failed marriage to actress Kate Winslet and his current marriage to Alison Balsom, one of Britain’s finest brass instrumentalists. 

The New Yorker presents a fascinating read about one of Britain, and the World’s, most talented film makers. 

Lambeth Council announces its support for a ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit

The leader of Lambeth Borough Council has put forward a motion to support the growing campaign for a people’s vote on the outcome of the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

At the meeting on Wednesday, Councillor Lib Peck, leader of the borough’s Labour council described the government’s Brexit plans as a ‘shambles’ and ‘unpopular across the political spectrum’.

Lambeth was the highest remain area in London in the 2016 referendum, with 73% of votes cast in the borough favouring the UK staying in the EU.

Citing this, Cllr Peck told the assembly that the Council will continue to ‘[lobby] the government to protect the rights of the more than 30,000 European citizens in Lambeth.’

The council leader also stressed the ‘significant negative effects’ that Brexit has already had on the borough’s economy, including the stalling of construction projects and the lack of ‘EU workers to support public services’.

Lambeth Council is dominated by Labour, with the party holding 55 of the 63 available seats. The Green Party act as opposition to them, but have just 5 councillors.

Councillor Tim Briggs is the Conservative party’s only representative in the borough. Representing the government, Cllr Briggs responded to the Labour motion by saying ‘the Prime Minister has [already] guaranteed the rights of EU citizens’.

Quoting the PM, he continued to say that ‘even in the event of no deal [EU citizens’] rights will be protected.’

Nevertheless, the Labour council resolved to support the campaign for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal and called on the government to abandon plans for a hard Brexit.

How Digital Developments Have Changed Journalism

Digital developments seem to be almost singlehandedly responsible for the decline of conventional news storytelling, changing journalism almost beyond recognition.

The Times journalist Ben MacIntyre remarked that ‘the internet is liberating us from the formulaic structures and scaffolding the media uses to tell stories’. I think MacIntyre is correct to a degree; the internet continues to sway people away from using the traditional news media, but ‘liberating’ may be excessive.

Also, many magazines and newspapers that were once solely in print now have a digital platform too, or have been fully replaced by digital, thanks in-part to the development of tablets, reducing print circulations even further.

Another aspect of this change is that many online news outlets are free and thus, perhaps inadvertently, encourage people to lose focus easily and switch to another free story. Technology writer Nicholas Carr comments that ‘the more [people that] use the web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing’. 

In summary, digital developments have forced journalism to progress into new areas and face the prospect of leaving their traditional media behind.

Hislop’s Search for Dissent: Review

‘I Object: Ian Hislop’s Search for Dissent’ is the latest exhibition  to open in London’s prestigious British Museum.

The exposition  is intended to challenge the stereotype of the museum being a reinforcement of the black and white official versions of events, instead displaying artefacts of protest, disobedience and satire throughout time.

This exhibition was put together by Ian Hislop, editor of satirical magazine Private Eye and team captain on the show Have I Got News for You. The British Museum granted him access to its extensive collection to find objects in which people on the losing side of history have left their marks.

Some examples of such protest are in the form of currency. Banknotes, in many countries, are considered property of the government and thus it’s illegal to deface them; attractive to the small-time protestor.

One such case of this crime is exhibited in the collection: A British penny from 1903 with ‘Votes for Women’ stamped crudely over the King’s profile, vandalised in the height of the militant Suffragette movement.

The pieces range from mere mockery and satire to acts of extreme bravery, spanning millennia, from a 1073 BC Iraqi idol which defied societal norms to the current Western political scandals and controversies and everything in between.

‘I Object: Ian Hislop’s Search for Dissent’ costs £12 and can be found at the Citi Exhibition in the British Museum until the 20thJanuary 2019. I highly recommend a visit.

Reuters Executive Summary: My View

In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of the 2018 edition of the Reuters Digital News Report is the mixture of opinions from respondents to the prospect of increased government regulation of the press.

Instead, 75% of those asked believed the responsibility to fact-check stories for accuracy should be down to the journalists, as they believe the so-called ‘fake news’ is generated by them.

In addition to this, 71% of those asked believe that technology giants like Google and Facebook should be more accountable for such regulation. Opinions on intervention from governments, however, are much more mixed.

Support is greater for government involvement in Europe, but still by no means unanimous. It is most popular in Spain, with 72% of respondents supporting increased government regulation. It is believed this popularity is a result of the alleged use of Russian bots interfering in the Catalonian independence crisis. The UK, France and Germany all sit below this at around 60%.

The report shows that in the US the prospect of the government influencing the media is much less popular at just over 40%, a result believed to be influenced by claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.