Encouraging Reading of Diverse Political Viewpoints with a Browser Widget
Sean A. Munson, Stephanie Y. Lee, Paul Resnick

10 July 2013,
ICWSM 2013, Boston, Massachusetts

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 — people prefer information that supports their beliefs and avoid counter-attitudinal information — observers warn that people may use these tools to access only agreeable information and thus live in ideological echo chambers.

We report on a field deployment of a browser extension that showed users feedback about the political lean of their weekly and all time reading behaviors. Compared to a control group, showing feedback led to a modest move toward balanced exposure, corresponding to 1-2 visits per week to ideologically opposing sites or 5-10 additional visits per week to centrist sites.

Video · Paper · Slides · Balancer Extension

The Balance Project

Aggregators such as Digg, Reddit, and Google News rely on ratings and links to select and present subsets of the large quantity of news and opinion items generated each day. This work requires understanding people's preferences for diversity (CHI 2010), as well as developing methods of selecting diverse sets of items (ICWSM 2009), and presentation techniques to make these sets appealing (CHI 2010).

Thanks to
  • Daniel Xiaodan Zhou
  • Jeremy Canfield
  • Erica Willar
  • Emily Rosengren
  • Cat Hong Le
  • Brian Ford
  • Peter Andrews
  • NSF award #IIS-0916099
  • Yahoo! Key Technical Challenges grant
  • Intel PhD Fellowship