Category Archives: PhD

Attending #ALTC – Workshop on the Filter Bubble

This week I’m attending the ALT Conference in Liverpool. It’s a conference I have been looking forward to attend for years now, and especially with the line-up of keynotes this year (Peter Goodyear, Sian Bayne and Bonnie Stewart), my expectations are sky-high.

I will be giving a workshop on Wednesday afternoon on breaking your Filter Bubble ([1749] – 15.00-16.30 in Elisabeth Gidney I(2)). I chose this topic (apart from the fact that it makes for a catchy title) because I think it is essential that we understand this phenomenon well, to remedy it, in order to save one of the best inventions of the last decades: social media and the online social network. (here’s a very good opinion piece by Paul Mason on this topic)

In many ways, the filter bubble is just a technical consequence of the problem of (information) abundance. Having too much information or content, creates the need to filter and keep ‘relevant’ information. What relevant means, can be debated. Computer scientists use known facts or behaviour of the user to determine what relevance means. The quest to offer relevant information to users goes so far, that it actually creates a cocoon or an echo chamber around the user.

There are many things that can be questioned here: for one, the strategy described above may work for some types of information (such as movies or kids’ toys), but why do we assume it will work for people, organisations or experiences? Another is that the only relation that is sought out is one of similarity – but this is not always the relation that is most relevant (here’s some of my earlier work, where I argue that for learning, we’re actually looking for dissimilar things:

I’m particularly interested in looking at the issue of the Filter Bubble from the perspective of your Personal Learning Network(PLN) (a social network that you design intentionally to support your learning). There is a general consensus that to avoid filter bubbles, we need more diversity in our social media feeds – but what determines diversity here, especially in a PLN?

The central question I want to discuss at the workshop is: “What is diversity in a PLN determined by?”


by Bill Watterson


I want to work towards two concrete outcomes:

  1. a Code of Conduct for online learners, with guidelines to prevent their PLN from becoming a bubble. This outcome needs to complete the following sentences:
    • a) “Your PLN will be most useful WHEN”
    • b) “I can gain most from my PLN WHEN”
  2. a list of desired social media values and functionalities that can prevent filter bubbles. How can we avoid falling into a “small world” context? This outcome creates the following list.
    • a) “These tools & instruments can help me manage my PLN effectively”

To make the most of the workshop it self, I would like to gather some of your feedback on topics and questions that you think we should discuss during the workshop.

The guiding questions that I want to use are centred around things that we can change in our own behaviour, and also things that social media and other technologies need to enable us to do. Some guiding questions to discuss here are:

Our behaviour

  • How do we actively maintain diversity in our PLNs?
  • How do we notice that we are in a filter bubble?
  • What are the actions we can undertake to get out of a filter bubble?
  • What is the role of social media in this?
  • To what extent are social media a cause of filter bubbles?
  • To what extent is the filter bubble a consequence of our own behaviour?

Desired Technological Features

  • What are the values/guiding principles currently underlying social technologies (social media, Twitter, FB, Google search, etc.)
  • How can social media be changed to help us in preventing filter bubbles?
  • Social media – in theory – can bring us in touch with anyone in the world. How do we re-capture this promise of social media?
  • Many companies react to the filter bubble by giving users more ‘control’ over their news feeds. Is ‘control’ the way to go? What is ‘control’?

Are there any questions that you would like to add to this list of topics? Things that you would like us to discuss? Please add them below in the comments section.
This workshop is aimed at educators, researchers and social media users in general.


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Participate in a experiment on Personal Knowledge Management!

Are you a Bachelors, Masters or Doctoral student starting your studies soon? Or have you just started your programme in the last month? Then, this is for you!

As a student, one of the biggest challenges is to manage all the information and knowledge that you collect: on the domain that you are studying, but also on how things work at your college or university, what other people are working on and how you can learn from them.

I am doing a little experiment on how students manage all this information in the first month of joining a new study program. If you are interested in joining in in this experiment, please fill out the form below. It takes about 5 minutes to fill in.

What you would be expected to do during ONE WEEK IN SEPTEMBER 2012 is:

  • fill in a 10-min survey at the beginning of the week
  • do a DAILY 5-min reflective writing activity
  • fill in a 10-min survey at the end of the week

Please sign up by the 31st of August 16.00 CET  5th of September (extended deadline)! Once you sign up, I will contact you with more details about the study on the evening of 31st August (or evening of the 5th of September).

All information submitted for this experiment will handled confidentially by myself. It will not be shared with any third parties. If you have any further questions about the experiment, please contact me on

Thank you for your participation!!!!

If you prefer to go directly to the live form, here is the link.

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