Is news a fast-moving consumer goods for you?
If you compare it to food, do you prefer heavy flavors or less oil and salt? Is it gobbled or chewed? Will you go out to explore the food, or wait for the takeaway app to recommend you to guess your taste?
▲ Picture from: unsplash
According to the 2021 Digital News Report of the Reuters News Research Institute , 73% of respondents are currently using their mobile phones to get news.
Some people turn the news into Douyin, while others are willing to stop and break the casserole to ask the end. How you consume news is actually how you see the world.
The algorithm is responsible for feeding, you just brush?
How fast can a person consume news? You have to look at Inshorts.
Concentrate each news item in less than 60 words, and let the algorithm choose what you read today. The news information platform Inshorts , which was born in 2013, has now become one of the most popular news applications in India.
▲ Picture from: Inshorts
In the era of information explosion, attention is struggling. Inshorts believes that the younger generation is very busy, and 60-word short news is enough to quickly understand what is going on in the world. The founding team even said , “We don’t want users to spend more time on news than 15 minutes."
Here, all short news is abbreviated by an algorithm called Rapid 60 . AI will observe and record your usage behavior, the time you spend on each news item, the interest preferences you set… so as to form your 0-1000 points scoring system. In the end, news with higher scores and more in line with your tastes will appear in the information stream (there are exceptions, for example, when the editor gives a piece of news 1000 points).
Open the APP, every news in front of you seems to have the same fate as Douyin video: the algorithm is responsible for feeding, you just need to quickly consume and swipe it away, "have read, let you go, next!"
▲ The experience of watching news with Inshorts: brush it!
This silky smooth experience, familiar feel, and graceful arcs really make it hard to remember the pleasure of brushing Olympic topics and kangaroo shaking hands under the covers for two hours the night before.
At this moment, I just want to sway the shoulders of the founder of Inshorts and ask: What exactly did the news do wrong, and why do you "flash" it?
Wait, is "brushing" the original sin?
Ai Faner once wrote in "Why is Douyin Addictive?" The article pointed out that the interaction details of Douyin, large and small, can make your brain's dopamine surge and become "behavioral addiction."
Interesting video content brings sensory stimulation, the full-screen immersive experience is magnified and enjoyable, and the algorithmic feeding makes people look forward to it. Douyin is like a blatant slot machine. You will never guess what the next one will be. Will there be surprises the next time your finger slides up.
Inshorts uses the same "unpredictable positive feedback". The founding team once revealed in an interview that this easy and straightforward way of refreshing news can attract users to read more than full-screen news headline jumps, and even a single piece of news stays for 4-5 times.
Turning more Indian friends into reading news and getting addicted seems to be a victory. But what is extremely scary to think about is that all of this is based on the premise of 60-word short news: the information is limited and short, and the news has been swiped away by the flexible thumb before it is too late to think after reading. In this cycle, one's observation of the world will only stay on the surface forever.
▲ Picture from giphy
Regardless of whether it is Douyin or Inshorts, in addition to the pleasure brought by "brushing", there is also an illusion of control.
Do you think you are a strict gatekeeper, and you are correcting the "jobs" submitted by the algorithm, tick and like the content you are interested in, and cruelly brush away the content you don't like? In fact, you are probably just wandering in vain in the "information cocoon room" customized by the algorithm.
Some other opinions, or listen to it
It is also a short news information platform, Brief chose another path.
This app, launched last year, declared the world as soon as it came out, saying that he had ambitions and wanted to solve the problems of news overload, media prejudice and information cocoon.
▲ Picture from: Brief
Brief believes that the judgment of human editors is irreplaceable , insisting that every short news is manually selected and written, stating that their algorithms will not favor readers, but will only provide everyone with the same and important report information.
In addition, Brief also attaches the source of the report, relevant background, multiple perspectives and a complete timeline to each piece of news. These operations sound more traditional than traditional media, more rigorous than doctoral dissertations, and can even be called the "Renaissance."
Take the news of "U.S. CDC Amendment of Indoor Masks Order" as an example. You can understand the cause and effect through the timeline, and look at the U.S. epidemic-related measures in the past year or so. Even as early as March 2020, Trump considered quarantining New York State, and watched politicians and scholars talk about it.
▲ News page (left), timeline (middle), multiple views (right)
After experiencing it, I found that using Brief to read news is like getting a very considerate teaching supplementary material. It parses and writes unfamiliar topics clearly and is waiting for you to explore; it is also like standing in a mind guide. In the center of the picture, it guides some directions, but it is not intended to limit the breadth and depth of your extension too much. It's more like standing on a square in ancient Greece, with various sounds about news events in your ears, and they all have their own place.
But is the choice of human editors necessarily better than algorithms? There are only 4 people in the Brief team, and only about 10 news items are updated every day. After reading it for two or three days, people can't help thinking: To some extent, am I invited to the information cocoon room created by these 4 friends for me?
Unfortunately, there is no time to savour it. The Brief team was recently acquired by Twitter, and this "classical and elite" news app has been discontinued.
Are you using technology efficiently, or are machines taming you?
Algorithm or human? Single source or multiple voices? Slip up crazy or pause to think?
No matter how you consume news, there is a big trend: Compared with detailed long reports, we like to read short content more and more. The "best partner" of mobile Internet and mobile phones is making our way of seeing the world fragmented and entertaining.
▲ Picture from NYTimes
Back in the PC era, in 2006, technical engineer Aza Raskin just designed "infinite scroll down" to replace the "click left and right to turn pages" on web pages. At the time, he thought that this kind of interaction was more humane and would not interrupt reading thoughts. Twelve years later, he expressed guilt in an interview with the BBC , saying that he did not expect that this innovation would be so addictive to be applied in the future, allowing people to spend more time on their mobile phones than necessary.
If you don't give your brain time to control your impulses, you will continue to brush.
Today, anyone who gets a mobile phone can quickly "swipe" it without too much study. This gesture has become a tacit understanding of contemporary times.
▲ A tasteful gif, pictured from the movie "Parasites"
When talking about the topic of "brushing" news, head-up master Jonathan He shared with me a vigilant scene that happened one day:
In public places, a 3-year-old kid is holding his mobile phone and playing vibrato. The voice is so loud that all passers-by have to care. Probably he got a favorite video, and he played it three times, over and over again, with endless aftertastes.
I have received high-intensity dopamine stimulation since I was a child, and I am addicted to the pleasure of "brushing". How will these game-like "unpredictable positive feedback" shape the behavior and thinking patterns of the next generation of young people? Is this a classic scene where machines are taming humans?
▲ Picture from: CNET
In the beginning, in order to be efficient, we gave the algorithm the joy of independent exploration and selection. Then, we let go of the ability to think. Finally, our happiness, anger, sorrow, and joy are all controlled by the small 6-inch screen in front of us. This "Black Mirror"-style plot sounds absurd, but it always happens around us.
Stay awake, keep thinking. While chasing and unlocking new postures on the Internet, don't forget to keep some "returning to ancestors" ability to stand in ancient Greek squares and stop to listen and think. This is a common issue of our generation.
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