Everyone’s worried about how we’re all cocooned in our own comfortable social media filter bubbles hearing unchallenging opinions from people we already agree with.
But how many of us actually do something about it?
Here’s a tool to help you burst that bubble. It is a neat start-up called Nupinion and it launched a Kickstarter this week (£2209 in the bag already when I looked on Thursday).
The overall goal – to help create informed and critical citizens through more sophisticated media literacy – is admirable. I admire the ambition and wish them all power to their smart elbows.
Here’s how they intend to do it:
“Take the hassle out of staying informed and get a well-rounded view with Nupinion. See different news sources on any topic side by side. Filter news by outlet, country or political slant. Find out who is involved. Get opposing perspectives, avoid fake news and pop your news bubble.”
So what is Nupinion?
You can play with a beta version of the site here which at present has a limited number of news sources mainly from the UK and US. To get started, just search for the news story of your choice and set a time-frame. The software will give you a dashboard of the media coverage that’s out there.
Near the top is a sample of the stories in left-leaning, right-leaning and centre (I guess you can’t lean to the centre) publications. Then there’s a sample of different themes that are being covered within your news story. There’s a map showing which countries are mentioned in coverage; a list of the main actors in your story; a breakdown of how many articles each publication ran; a sample of videos; a sample of tweets and so on.
I found it a potentially useful tool for flagging up different perspectives on an issue at a glance and giving an overview of media coverage. It was also interesting to see which publications are writing most about different stories or topics. Although I’m not sure I always believed the answer. When I put “climate change” into the search box the top two publications were Huffington Post and Daily Mail on 37 and 33 articles respectively, but the Guardian did not make the list at all. The algorithm must be missing a significant number of Guardian articles I suspect.
Likewise, on a search for “French elections” the Daily Express, Daily Mail and Reuters has 53, 51 and 23 articles respectively but the Guardian and BBC were down at 8 and 7. In a month with various new revelations about the leading candidates and an enduring media fascination with Marine Le Pen that seems unlikely.
One issue that may need some work is that the software doesn’t seem very good at working out the significance of an article. For example, the “climate change” search brings up an “Insider” article in the New York Times about how the paper has revamped its climate coverage. Interesting to other journalists or fans of the NYT but probably not what you are looking for if you want to know what’s happening on the climate beat.
To be fair, this is of course a work in progress. As the team write:
“Our news ninjas are busy fine-tuning how we identify different topics and their representative articles.”
A more fundamental issue though is which news sources to have in the mix. Currently the list includes Breitbart and the Daily Express for example. If one of the Nupinion’s aims is to tackle fake news, that will raise some eyebrows.