Filter Bubbles and Civic Engagement with Read Across the Aisle

Microsoft first met Nick Lum when his organization BeeLine Reader became a Tech Awards Education Laureate in 2015. His latest venture is just as interesting and transformational!  Learn more about Read Across The Aisle.
– Jessica Weare, Microsoft

It should come as no surprise that with the advent of social media, our political divide has only grown. Public polls show that instead of merely thinking that our political opponents hold incorrect beliefs, we now embrace negative views about the people themselves. This type of antagonism distracts from the important issues that so many of us would like to solve together and prevents the critical dialog that we need to make progress.

Our newfound exposure to this divide has caused us to retreat into our filter bubbles—reading news that caters to our beliefs and discussing it exclusively with our co-partisans. While life in a filter bubble may be comfortable, it is not what our democracy needs. As Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein powerfully argues in his book #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media, exposure to a mix of ideas is a critical ingredient for a well-informed citizenry and functioning democracy.

We launched the Read Across The Aisle project to help people step outside of their social media filter bubbles and be exposed to news from a variety of viewpoints. Our app and browser plugin track the political polarity of the news sites you read and give you periodic reminders to read news from “across the aisle.” In our browser plugin, you can even see how the news you consume through social media differs from the news you come across when browsing the web independently.

We want to help people understand how their social media habits may be under-informing them or even mis-informing them about the state of our nation and world. More importantly, we want to give these readers easy access to across-the-aisle content that they might not be familiar with.

Thanks to a partnership with the Wall Street Journal, our users will be able to get free access to WSJ articles through a guest pass that’s included in our app and browser plugin. We look forward to launching more media partnerships like this to help bridge the divide in American politics.

Read Across The Aisle is a Kickstarter-backed project that garnered media coverage in a front page New York Times article, the BBC, Bloomberg, and The Guardian.

For more information, or to get our free app and browser plugin, see www.ReadAcrossTheAisle.com.

Nick Lum is the creator of Read Across The Aisle and the CEO of BeeLine Reader. Nick’s creations have been covered in the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the BBC. His work is funded by Intel Capital, with awards and prizes from Microsoft (via The Tech Museum of Innovation), NewSchools Venture Fund, and Stanford University.

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