Bubbles and echos: are you surrounding yourself with fake news?

Librarians have been warning people about ‘Fake News’ for many, many, many, many years – how to find and select reliable, authoritative, quality resources is at the heart of any good library teaching session.  In a way we librarians have to thank Mr Trump for making Fake News a popular term; he has made everyone aware that there are fake stories out there and that there has been for centuries (see our historical time-line of Fake News).

2019 is NU Library’s third year of promoting awareness of Fake News, and by looking at the large number of visits to our Fake News Guide over these three years (4,672 visits in total), and again thanks to Mr Trump, it’s not something that’s going away anytime soon.  So we Librarians will continue our quest of highlighting all information that is fake for the greater good.

Until I went to Librarian’s Fake News conference last year, I hadn’t heard of the terms ‘Filter Bubble’ and ‘Echo Chambers’ in relation to Fake News.  However, once explained hopefully it will make you more aware of what information/news stories you read via the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter, and how they could potentially be fake.  So here is the low-down on what these terms mean and how you can avoid falling into their traps; we’ve also offered the alternative view that they’re a load of old nonsense so you can decide for yourselves…

What is a ‘Filter Bubble’?

A Filter Bubble is when you are in a virtual bubble on social media – you only encounter information and opinions that agree with or reinforce your own beliefs.  Your ‘personalised’ online experience is the result of algorithms that work away in the background and dictate what you see/read online. Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Netflix, YouTube and many more all do this.

These Filter Bubbles in turn create Echo Chambers…

What are ‘Echo Chambers’?

When information within a closed system online is only giving you (‘echoing’) back your opinion and beliefs and establishing confirmation bias (only accepting information that confirm your own opinion and beliefs).

What are the dangers?

As much as I enjoy Facebook fuelling my love of funny dog videos by suggesting similar videos and articles, being aware of why and how Facebook is doing this helps when it comes to more serious topics such as the news, social issues and politics.

Regarding Fake News, confirmation bias is particularly worrying as you will start believing fake news stories that confirms your opinions and beliefs. I know I have done this, which is really scary to realise.

Watch this short TedTalks video from Eli Pariser on the dangers of Filter Bubbles:

You could argue that this type of ‘personalisation’ is editing the web – only showing you one half of the story.  So what can you do to pop the bubble?

What can you do to stop the bubbles and echoes?

There are a few simple things you can do to stop this and open yourselves up to a wider web:

  • Read news sites, websites and blogs that offer a wide range of perspectives, such as the BBC.
  • Use Incognito browsing, delete search histories and try and resist the temptation of logging into your accounts every time you go online.
  • Deleting or blocking browser cookies – these cookies hold the algorithms that determine what we see.
  • Turn off your curated feed in Facebook.
  • Click ‘Like’ on everything! – This will tell the AI that you are into everything – all politics, all news etc.
  • Don’t clink on links, especially politics and social issues – will stop fuelling the algorithms.
  • Tell everyone else to turn off their curated feed!

Is it all a myth?

Below are a few articles that claim Filter Bubbles and Echo Chambers are myths and that it’s not the technology at fault, but rather the user. I’ll let you decide:

Dubois, E. and Blank, G. (2018) The myth of the echo chamber. Available at: https://theconversation.com/the-myth-of-the-echo-chamber-92544. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Robson, D. (2018) The myth of the online echo chamber. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180416-the-myth-of-the-online-echo-chamber. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Schwab, P. (2017) Academic research debunks the myth of filter bubbles. Available at: https://www.intotheminds.com/blog/en/academic-research-debunks-the-myth-of-filter-bubbles/. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Don’t burst my bubble!

Or maybe you like being in your own little bubble? The safety and comfort in knowing what information you are going to be presented with – nothing that offends or upsets your online world. I know I will carry on being fed humorous dog videos.

There are some interesting thoughts and opinions on the Social Network Bubble – the pros and cons – on this Radio 4 programme:

BBC Radio 4 (2017) Bursting the social network bubble. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b083p4lw. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

References:

BBC Radio 4 (2017) Fave ways to burst your social media bubble. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3n9yf0D5WxRZJGclBMtFGwK/five-ways-to-burst-your-social-media-bubble. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Farnam Street (2017) How filter bubbles distort reality: everything you need to know. Available at: https://fs.blog/2017/07/filter-bubbles/. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Grimes, D. (2017) Echo chambers are dangerous – we must try to break free of our online bubbles. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2017/dec/04/echo-chambers-are-dangerous-we-must-try-to-break-free-of-our-online-bubbles. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Everyday life and Mass Observation

Mass Observation. Wow, sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? It should!

This resource offers revolutionary access to one of the most important archives for the study of Social History in the modern era. You can log in using your Newcastle University Campus ID and password to explore original manuscript and typescript papers created and collected by the Mass Observation organisation, as well as printed publications, diaries, photographs and interactive features dating from 1937 to 1972.

If you’re interested in learning more about the topics currently influencing our lives, it would do no harm to research the social history topics available within Mass Observation such as anti-Semitism, the economy, austerity, education, women at work, religion, mining, news, the Government, smoking, drinking, sexual behaviour, propaganda, unemployment and writing (to name just a few!).

Mass Observation home page

Mass Observation Diarist maps

If you want to know more about Mass Observation and to see some samples from the collection, then you could take a look at the Mass Observation Twitter feed, or there is a recorded webinar available for you to watch via YouTube in order to get the best out of the resource.

Level Up Your Referencing: Cite Them Right

A person writing at a deskYou already know that referencing is important – it not only gives credit to the original creator of a work you have used but also helps to highlight your skills as a researcher; showing that you have read around your topic, found relevant information, applied it to your arguments and used it to develop your own ideas.

However, when it comes to referencing, all of those punctuation rules, different styles and the vast array of document formats can seem overwhelming. Happily, we’ve got a great resource to help you work out your references in three easy steps!

Cite Them Right:

‘Cite Them Right’ is a fantastic referencing guide that provides clear instructions and examples for how to reference a wide range of documents including books, journals, websites and audio-visual materials.  Available as both a physical textbook and an online tool, ‘Cite Them Right’ helps you to format your references correctly using Harvard, American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA), Modern Languages Association (MLA), Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA), Vancouver or Chicago referencing styles.

(Remember to always use the referencing style recommended by your school.)

Three steps to an accurate reference:
  1. Search for the type of document you want to reference on Cite Them Right online using the search box at the top right of the screen or by browsing the drop down menus at the top of the page.
  2. Select the referencing style you need from the drop down menu at the top of the page.  This defaults to Harvard (author-date).
  3. Follow the example references given, copying the format to create your own reference in the ‘You Try’ box.

Why not have a go and create a reference for this blog post!

If you need some more advice on how to reference, take a look at our video from the Library’s Managing Information guide:

 

 

Put Your Skills to the Test: Escape Room Mini Game

Time to put your skills to the test!

As part of our ‘Level Up Your Academic Skills’ event we will be running an exciting ‘Escape Room’ mini challenge across three different locations this week.

In teams of 2-3 people you’ll be tasked with solving a series of puzzles against the clock, with the fastest team set to win a prize!

To take part, drop by our Academic Skills displays at the following times:

Walton Library – Tuesday 19 March from 13:00-14:30

Philip Robinson Library – Wednesday 20 March from 10:00 – 12:00

Marjorie Robinson Library – Friday 22 March from 10:30-12:00

Taking you to the next skills level

Have you heard about ASK? It’s the University’s one-stop-shop for academic skills.

Are you concerned about being accused of plagiarism? Having some difficulty with statistical analysis? Struggling to write a persuasive argument in your essay? Feeling like you’re not able to manage your lecture, seminar and assignment workload? Or perhaps you are a master procrastinator who needs to just crack on with some work. The ASK (Academic Skills Kit) can help!

Signposting you to the services, resources and support available across Newcastle University, it will help you identify where to go for advice and support to improve your study habits and develop skills that are invaluable for University and what comes after.

ASK directs you to the correct place for support and includes online resources such as quizzes and videos, to help you better understand where you may need to grow.

Why not start with the myth busting quiz developed by the Writing Development Centre for some quick tips on how to study well?
Image of study myths quiz

Library liaison team: get the lowdown

Who are we?

As you may guess from the name, the Library’s liaison team role is to liaise with the academic Schools at Newcastle University, to help us plan and deliver excellent Library services which meet the needs of staff and students. There are over twenty of us, and we’re a friendly bunch: you should get to know us!

What do we do?

Broadly speaking, our remit falls into three main areas:

Collection development

In other words, making sure the Library’s information resources are suitable for current research and teaching needs. So we’ll liaise with Schools about reading lists,  discuss resource requirements for new modules and programmes, and arrange and evaluate trials of major databases. We’ll also help you get the best out of our resources, via our subject guides and resource guides, and of course, this blog!

Help and guidance

We’re here to help you get the best out of the Library. Every year, we deliver several hundred hours of teaching to students from all Schools and at all levels: from big lectures to small practical workshops, covering topics such as literature searching, subject resources, reference management and more. We’ve also developed a wide range of high quality online learning resources, including guides, videos and quizzes, to help you develop your academic skills.

We can also answer individual queries (see our contact information below). The Library’s excellent Library Help service will probably answer most of your questions, but for more specialist subject queries, we’re happy to help. You can also book a one-to-one appointment with us for more in-depth guidance (for example, to discuss your dissertation literature search).

Relationship management

No, that doesn’t mean we’re marriage guidance counsellors or agony aunts! It simply means keeping in touch with staff and students in our Schools: finding out what’s going on, and keeping you up to date with what we’re up to. We do this in various formal and informal ways, including attending meetings and events in the Schools (everything from Student Voice Committees to PGR student conferences); producing regular newsletters; using social media; and just generally being nosey!

How can you get in touch with us?

You can find the contact details for the liaison team for your subject area here.  We recommend you use the subject team email addresses, rather than emailing an individual person. That’s because some of us work part-time, or may be away:  emailing the team will ensure you’ll get a prompt answer.

How to use flashcards for effective revision

Build your bag of tricks and special skills

Image of pixel people student with subject support url

We’re probably all familiar with the fact that the library is where you find the books, but this month, why not explore all of the other types of information that can add to your academic skills bag of tricks. The library’s Resource Guides draw together the best resources available, organised by the type of information rather than subject area.

So if you are trying to find historic newspapers, company financial data, market research, standards or images you will find a resource guide for all of that!

Market research resource guide homepage

The guides are updated all the time as we add new subscriptions to our collection or identify online resources that we think will be useful for teaching and research. You’ll find the Resource Guides on the library website and as quick links on every Subject Guide.

Resource guide quick links from the subject guides

We’ve also highlighted the Resource Guides that are most commonly used for your subject area in the Specialist Resources section.

Specialist resources quick links image

So next time you need to find a newspaper article, a government paper or some statistics to analyse, visit the Resource Guides to help you identify where to look.

Level up your searching skills

Pick up more tips and tricks for searching on our skills guides.

Level up your academic study skills

Time to get your game face on and level up your academic skills!

Cartoon students thinking about academic skills and becoming graduates

Throughout your time at University, you are required to develop a whole range of important academic skills, from knowing where to find information to critical thinking to reference management.  These skills are not only important for completing your degree successfully but they can also be transferred to the work you do once you leave the University, making them invaluable for your future career.

Developing some of these skills may seem daunting but the Library is here to support you at every level of study with our range of online tools, videos and guides as well as one-to-one support from your Subject Liaison team and staff at the Writing and Development Centre.

This month we’re inviting you on a study quest to explore our guides and tools and gain some serious Study XP (experience points).

To get started take a look at your Subject guide for advice on finding information in your area or see our Employability guide to explore how these skills can help in your future career.

From 11 – 24 March 2019 visit our display in the Library to chat to our helpful staff, pick up postcards, guides and fun freebies, and if you feel up for a challenge, take on our exciting mini escape room game (more details to follow)!

Ready, Player One?