It’s part of a continuing effort by Facebook to make the News Feed central to our existence. “The dream is to get to this world where people feel that Facebook is an instrumental, useful, important part of their lives,” says the company’s chief product officer, Chris Cox. “That’s the golden thing.”
Since the introduction of virtual reality (VR), technologists have struggled to design products and applications that draw users into digital worlds that are comparable to real-life experiences. As we progress towards the ability to tell stories by offering wholly immersive experiences for the user, we start to imagine what an entire industry devoted to the creation of virtual reality may look like in the near future. In this TEDxTalk, Ana Serrano extracts lessons learned from the explosion of the Internet over the past twenty years, and explains how these will help guide us in the creation of the virtual reality industry for the next twenty years. What can we learn from the way advertising and the public commons have changed online over time? How will this affect the VR world for the future? What risks does it present to the consumer? And how can we rectify it going forward? These are just a few of the thought-provoking questions she tackles during this talk.
Technology giants like Facebook, LinkedIn and Amazon — along with the data analysts at legacy media companies like Disney and Time Warner — spend their days trying to seduce their audiences by creating ultra-targeted streams of news, television clips, opinions and other pop culture ephemera. When members of that same audience log on to social networks, Hulu accounts, Netflix or Amazon Prime they consume ads, videos and news items that cater to what the algorithms driving those services believe users want.
Many of the people who read this article will do so because Greg Marra, 26, a Facebook engineer, calculated that it was the kind of thing they might enjoy.
Mr. Marra’s team designs the code that drives Facebook’s News Feed — the stream of updates, photographs, videos and stories that users see. He is also fast becoming one of the most influential people in the news business.
Facebook now has a fifth of the world — about 1.3 billion people — logging on at least monthly. It drives up to 20 percent of traffic to news sites, according to figures from the analytics company SimpleReach. On mobile devices, the fastest-growing source of readers, the percentage is even higher, SimpleReach says, and continues to increase.
Today, many major websites personalize the content that they show to users. Examples include: Google Search, which personalizes search results to try and surface more relevant content; Amazon and Netflix, which personalize product and movie recommendations; and Facebook, which personalizes each user’s news-feed to highlight engaging content. The proliferation of personalization on the Web is driven by the explosion of Big Data that is available about people’s online and offline behavior.
Although there are cases where personalization is beneficial to users, scientists and regulators have become increasingly concerned that personalization may also harm Web users. For example, sociologists and political scientists are concerned that online Filter Bubbles may create “echo chambers” that increase political polarization. Similarly, personalization on e-commerce sites can be used to implement price discrimination.
Given the enormous number of people who rely on the Web, it is imperative that we understand how personalization algorithms are being deployed, and the effect that they have on Web users. Below, you will find links to specific research projects that our group has undertaken to address these issues.