Are Cat Videos Influencing Your Science News?


[Excerpt from: Finding Reliable Information Online: Adventures of an Information Sleuth]

…For science information in particular, there is concern that crowdsourcing and click rates are influencing what people find when they use a search engine, and this in turn shapes how we make sense of a topic. Broussard calls this a self-reinforcing informational spiral, meaning how people search for a topic then influences how a search engine like Google weighs and retrieves content.

Broussard questions whether we are really making science more accessible to lay people online or if we are moving to a science communication process in which knowledge is greatly influenced by what links search engines pull up: In effect narrowing our options.[i] Moving forward, as many people are fed news, through Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites, this phenomenon will likely accelerate.[ii] It may be that your friend who keeps “liking” cat videos is also choosing the science news you read.

[i] Brossard, Dominique and Dietram A. Scheufele. “Science, New Media, and the Public.” Science 339, 40 (2013).

[ii]Mitchell, Amy. State of the News Media 2014. Pew Research Journalism Project State of the Media (March 26, 2014); Miller, Claire Cain. “Why BuzzFeed is Trying to Shift Its Strategy.” New York Times (August 12, 2014); Goel, Vindu and Ravi Somaiya. “With New App, Facebook Aims to Make Its Users’ Feeds Newsier.” New York Times (February 4, 2014).


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