On modern media platforms, abstract algorithms generally decide what content to show you based on your user-profile. A profile carefully constructed by tech-companies through the constant analysis of your internet behaviour. From your clicks and likes they infer what your interests are and what grabs your attention. Information that is added to your user-profile and used by algorithms to personalise your online content. A tech-company’s knowledge about you, thus determines how you experience their services. The more complete they profiled your behaviour on the web, the more specific and less diverse the web’s content will become for you. This is called a filter bubble, the lack of online content differing from your interests or user-profile.
Hence, tech-companies gain more and more control over what information is shared and who has access to it. How free does this make you in roaming the web for new information and what remains hidden behind your filter bubble? These are questions Studio Synergy explored with the use of Post-it Public at Rozet in Arnhem, during the last three months of 2021.
A social experiment
Unveiling what remains hidden behind one’s filter bubble, was the goal of Studio Synergy’s project: “Burst the Bubble”. Therefore, Post-it Public was used to ask visitors, and people that passed by Rozet, for their opinion about a broad range of topics. Each week of the exhibition a new general question was placed on both of Post-it Public’s screens. One inside Rozet’s building and the other accessible from outside. There, participants could text their answer to Post-it Public. So, contributing to a growing collection of opinions and view-points about the raised topics on the screens.
For Burst the Bubble, Post-it Public’s clever sifting algorithms were turned off, nor did it have access to any user-profiles. All received messages sent to a specific screen appeared on that screen, unfiltered… Therefore, it provided the ideal tool to show the public opinions and view-points outside one’s own filter bubble. The more (differing) people reacted to a question, the higher the chance of them reading things which would never appear on their time line.
The result of this experiment: lots of discussions and dialogues. It proved hard sometimes to accept the existence of wildly contrasting notions read on the screens. Causing some messages to be appointed as having an “undesirable” content. Or making people wonder why someone would hold a specific opinion. In other words, our view on our surroundings is affected by (filter) bubbles and it is hard to step out of them. Luckily, can tools like Post-it Public be used to make people more aware of these bubbles. With the additional bonus that the playful interaction with Post-it Public was experienced as joyful and satisfying. Increasing the chance of participants sharing their opinion through which they help burst the bubble of others.