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The Polarization Lab


Chris Bail: So what we found surprised a lot of people, we thought that breaking people’s echo chambers would make them more
moderate, what we actually found is that breaking the echo chamber made people
more extreme. This experiment made things worse, not better.We think that the problem runs a lot deeper than echo chambers. Alex Volfovsky: In the
Polarization Lab we have a very big in interdisciplinary group of people working,
sort of, on both the political science theory of this, the psychology of this, and
also the implementation processes from a statistics, machine learning, or computer science point of view. Chris Bail: so what we’ve done here is to create a new lab, a new
environment, where we can actually simulate social media in the wild, we can
turn on and off different features of social media. Sunshine Hillygus: I think it’s important to have the perspective of a survey methodologist. Big data gets a lot of
hype, but we need to understand not only the data that we have, but also the data
that we don’t have. Alex Volfovsky: what is the appropriate distance that we should be discussing between two people. Chris Bail: What would a better kind of social media look like? How could social media make us better at connecting with each other
rather than worse, make us more civil, not less. We’re building our own platform in
order to figure out the secret sauce. Alex Volfovsky: From a machine learning perspective we really are just building large tools for understanding distances between large
complex data and matching people based on these new distances that we learned. Sunshine Hillygus: we bring together such a diverse group of students and faculty from across the
university. Chris Bail: And what we need now is help. We need users, we need supporters, we need a whole community of people to help us pull off this unprecedented experiment
that we call the Polarization Lab.

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