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"This Could Also Interest You…": Programming Diversity of Opinion

"This Could Also Interest You…": Programming Diversity of Opinion

Hamburg, 7 June 2018. How can algorithmic recommendation systems be programmed in such a way that they also offer diversity of opinion despite increasing personalization? This was the central question at the 9th Hamburg Media Symposium, which has been organised today by the Hans-Bredow-Institut, the Medienanstalt Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce. About 200 experts discussed diversity as the key concept of media order and the possibility of realising diversity in the design of technologies – i.e. "by design" – in the future.

With digitalisation and possible individualisation, offers, their distribution and their use have changed to such an extent that new questions of diversity arise. Are there new diversity risks, and how can they be addressed? For example, should the design of recommendation systems require users to be offered a variety of options? Is there a need for diversity of recommendation systems and could those who are especially focused on “public value” play a role? What is the idea of diversity based on and how could it be technically programmed? Based on current research findings, these questions were discussed at the symposium.

Thomas Fuchs, Director Medienanstalt Hamburg / Schleswig-Holstein (MA HSH), said in his introduction: "Opinion formation has changed fundamentally in the context of search engines and social networks. The legal instruments of broadcasting regulation that we know of to ensure the diversity of opinion are, thus, pointless and cannot be used for communication online that is relevant for opinions."

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz, Director of the Hans-Bredow-Institut, emphasised in his introduction that diversity as a concept in terms of representing different opinions of media offerings is only very limited suitable for a future media order. "We cannot simply transfer the concept of 'designed freedom' from broadcasting to the Internet. We need analyses that show what new problems arise from algorithmic recommendation systems, such as strengthening extreme positions or filter bubbles. And we should thing about solutions which use technology themselves."

Why diversity from the perspective of democratic theory is meaningful was explained afterwards by Prof. Dr. Natali Helberger from the University of Amsterdam. Instead of looking at media providers and obliging them to broadcast a diverse programme, it would be crucial to look at the user perspective in the future. "This means for science that we have to use tracking tools to see what sources users actually use to obtain information", said Helberger. Together with her team, she has developed a data protection-friendly measuring instrument for this purpose.

Paul Solbach, founder of the start-up Praise that gives reading recommendations, then showed from the perspective of computer science how diversity can be inscribed into programmes. Following this, Prof. Dr. Wiebke Loosen and Julius Reimer from the Hans-Bredow-Institut gave a presentation on how journalistic diversity can be realised in practice. In the project "Tinder the City", they are currently working in co-operation with the University of Bremen on developing an app for Bremen's urban public that serves as many different information needs of the local audience as possible.

In the second part of the symposium, experts from this field demonstrated how they deal with diversity in their recommendation systems. In his keynote speech, Robert Amlung showed how diversity was programmed in the ZDF Mediathek [media library]. Hans Evert, Head of the German editorial of upday Germany introduced the personalised news service upday, which is pre-installed on every Samsung smartphone. David Hein concluded by explaining the strategy of securing diversity in the media on the TV streaming platform TV Spielfilm LIVE.

The series "Hamburg Media Symposium"

The Hamburg Media Symposium took place for the ninth time. Every year in June, Hans-Bredow-Institut, the Medienanstalt Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce present the latest research findings on a current media topic and promote the discussion between science and experts from the field.


Christiane Matzen, Tel. 040 450 217 41, c.matzen@hans-bredow-institut.de

Information on the Hans-Bredow-Institut

The research perspective of the Hans-Bredow-Institut focuses on media transformation and related structural changes of public communication. With its cross-medial, interdisciplinary and independent research, it combines basic research and transfer research, and thus, generates knowledge on issues relevant for politics, commerce and civil society. In 2019, the Institute will be admitted into the Leibniz Association. The Joint Science Conference passed a corresponding resolution on 13 April 2018. More at www.hans-bredow-institut.de/en.


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