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Are We Living in Information Cocoons Societies?




Algorithms are used extensively in our daily lives, from social media feeds to search engine results to online shopping recommendations. They are also applied in various areas such as finance, transportation, healthcare, and education. These algorithms are designed to collect and analyze data from various sources to provide solutions or predictions.


With the increasing integration of technology in our society, algorithms are becoming more prevalent and influential in shaping our behaviors and decisions.


Algorithm regulation is characterized by high complexity, refinement, and concealment. Algorithms as social power have become more obscure in the digital age.


We Are Trapped in the Information Cocoons


Against the background of the surge of Internet information and the rapid development of information technology, social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc... are oriented towards the goal of "traffic is king".


The content distribution and information recommendation mechanism of these platforms may accelerate the formation of user information cocoons, and the hot recommendation of multiple platforms has also aggravated the negative impact of information cocoons.


The term "information cocoon" was first coined by Cass Sunstein, a legal scholar, and former White House staffer during the Obama administration, in his 2001 book "Republic.com".



Cass Sunstein


Subsequently, concepts such as filter bubbles also supplemented the concept of the information cocoon, and experts in various fields also interpreted and analyzed the concept of the information cocoon from different perspectives:


From the perspective of journalism and communication, the information cocoon room means that users only listen to the information they choose and make them happy;


In the field of communication, the information cocoon room is considered to be an information effect that will cause visual barriers to information acquirers; from the perspective of Internet content ecology, the information cocoon room is a consumer-produced content platform. The content accepted by the audience will be "involved" in their own interests and society An Internet phenomenon in relationships;


From the perspective of media convergence, the information cocoon room is an information introversion phenomenon in which individuals are surrounded by a huge amount of information "circle" driven by new media technology when they obtain information and exchange opinions, forming the pressure of similar groups;


Most of the conceptual discussions from the perspective of library and information are based on the description of Cass Sunstein’s information cocoon, which is a long-term user’s choice of access to media information based on personal preferences so that he is bound in a “cocoon” like a silkworm cocoon.



Crisis Under the Information Cocoons


With the rapid development of digital technology, the unidirectional time structure has gradually changed into a digital point-like time structure model, which has eliminated the aggregation ability of time to a certain extent, and the phenomenon of information homogeneity is becoming more and more serious, causing the effective time of the individual is consumed unconsciously.


First of all, some audiences with low media literacy are difficult to effectively screen and distinguish the same type of information, and are forced to receive it to a certain extent, and even fall into an "information cocoon" without knowing it; However, effective attention is wasted due to poor self-control. For example, the content pushed by the short-video platform Tiktok usually takes a few seconds, and the audience often browses a large amount of similar content before they can react.


Secondly, in the era of pan-entertainment, media platforms often use algorithm technology to carry out precise pushes based on audience preferences, causing audiences to be attracted by the entertainment content they are interested in, and indulge in the "cocoon room" built by the platform, consuming personal attention.


Not only individuals, the information cocoon also happens to group members.


Group members have similar knowledge and experience, so their ideas are basically the same. However, it is difficult for them to get in touch with other opinions in the group, and they will be trapped in the "echo chamber".


This common knowledge effect makes group decision-making often based on the knowledge and experience of the group, which is irrational. To a certain extent, there will be dead corners in information knowledge, and new information is difficult to be effectively transmitted, which leads to group "information cocoons" and group peers. homogenization and heterogeneity.


In a group, only the voices of "opinion leaders" will be recognized by everyone, and a small number of voices that are contrary to opinion leaders are often ignored, so that the proportion of the same opinions increases, and finally the opinions of a few people disappear completely.


In the long run, it will lead to an imbalance and polarization in the social structure and aggravate the differentiation of the social structure.



How Far Can We Go in an “Algorithm-as-Power” Society


Algorithms are generally understood in computer science as "the control structure that completes a given task". Algorithmic regulation means that algorithms classify target groups based on massive data, and make automatic decisions based on classification results, thereby replacing traditional manual regulation. As a social power, it is derived from the above-mentioned automatic classification and decision-making process.


If the classification process of the algorithm is to "understand" people's behavior, then the decision-making process of the algorithm is to "shape" people's behavior on a large scale. Users unintentionally create another "self" in the virtual world, which is This kind of algorithmic behavior with a differentiation nature brings a kind of extremely joyful possibility for human beings to escape from real society.


In an algorithm-as-power information cocoon society, will everyone eventually become a cocoon or a butterfly?


Perhaps, all this will be revealed in the near future.


 

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