What is a Filter Bubble?

Since the late 40’s, every president of the United States obtains multiple documents of informations several times a day. The documents are adjusted according to each new president’s desires. Donald Trump desires to receive a document that is unofficially called “The Propaganda Document”. On orders from Mr. Trump, it contains only positive news, flattering tweets about himself and in some cases, when there are no happy news, just pictures of him looking powerful. It is also said that the news and national security issues in other documents are ranked with the only purpose of not upsetting him.

Filter bubbles can happen to everyone, not just president Trump. It happens when we use Facebook, Google or almost any other social media that adapt their content to their users. By adapting the content, users will only see information in subjects they have earlier shown interest in. One example could be if a coder and a zookeeper Googles “python”, they will probably receive different results. We believe that the effect of filter bubbles might be much more than just getting different Google results. If people only find information that matches their interests and opinion they will not see things from several points of view. In our project, we are investigating if there are such thing as a harmful filter bubble and what it might look like.

Our names are Anna Normark and Rebecca Oskarsson. We are two master students in the IT engineering programme, currently working on our master thesis. Our thesis consists of investigating filter bubbles and their effects. We are invited to write some blog posts here by our reviewer Åsa Cajander and this is our first blog post on this topic and there will be two more coming up this spring. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

It’s time to charge your batteries and spend some time with family and friends. It is important to rest during holidays, especially if your work has been stressful. Far too many in academia burn out, or end up with depressions or other stress related problems.

Tip of the day: Last week there was a stress test released by SuntArbetsliv that I strongly recommend as it is based on the latest stress research:


(Unfortunately in Swedish. I hope Google Translate will work)

We really hope that you take some time off, and that we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy new year!


Visitors at the HTO group and IKEA Sightseeing

We have had Leysan Nurgalieva, Marta Larusdottir and Shweta Premadanan visiting the HTO group the last weeks. You find some blog posts about their work here and here.

Apart from excellent work with data collection such as interviews, we also did some planning of studies and funding applications. And we also had time for some social activities. One night we went out for dinner together with the HTO group, and we really had a nice evening. I still remember the mailing about James Bond afterwards that was hilarious.

We also did some brief sightseeing to get the cultural experience of Sweden. And what can be more Swedish than IKEA in combination with the traditional Swedish Christmas table?  After the full tour of IKEA, our guests had the opportunity to try the different herrings, sausages and other things they served at the IKEA Christmas table. And of course, some Swedish meatballs!

Grand Opening of Uppsala University’s School of Technology (UppTech)

Last week Uppsala University’s new technological initiative Uppsala University School of Technology (UppTech) was opened. UppTEch will be a centre for technical competence that is now spread over several departments. The aim is to create a meeting point for coordination, discussion and joint problems for applications with a technical focus.

During the opening there were presentations from industry and research. Maria Strömme opened up with a very inspiring talk about the future, and some of the challenges that are ahead. She said that one of the challenges is the ageing population, and the number of people that are 60 or older will be as  much as 40% of the population. She also said that we have reached the peak of the number of children in the world, and most probably we will meet lots of adults if we walk the streets of cities in the year 2050.

A nice dinner was served after the grand opening, and Gunilla Myreteg, Åsa Cajander and Jonas Moll had a nice evening talking to different people interested in technology and its applications both from industry and the university.


On Teaching and Four Papers Accepted for Frontiers in Education 2017

A majority of the researchers in the HTO group are also very interested in computer science education.  As a HCI senior working at the department of Information Technology you do teaching in HCI around 30-60% of your time depending on what research projects you are involved in, and depending on what you are interested in. Most PhD students do 20% of teaching in HCI courses. So, as a student you would meet our faculty in a large variety of different HCI courses!

Many of us are also a part of Uppsala Computing Education Research Group (UpCERG) which is another research group at our department which is led by Arnold Pears. This research group does research on teaching and learning of computer science education.

This year the HTO group submitted four papers to the Frontiers in Education Conference, and all of them were accepted!

1) The first paper was a joint effort with many authors, of which Åsa Cajander, Jonas Moll and Diane Golay from HTO were a few. The paper is about student behavior and makes use of the theory of planned behavior for analyzing and understanding unexpected behavior in an HCI course. Jonas Moll has written some about this paper in his blogs. The paper is called Unexpected Student Behaviour and Learning Opportunities: Using the Theory of Planned Behaviour to Analyse a Critical Incident”. This paper is the first one in a row of papers on the same theme.

2) The second paper presents an interview study with computing instructors who were teachers in a summer camp for children. The summer camp is an example of a maker community effort targeting girls who are interested in computer science, and hence has a gender perspective. The main author of the paper is Tina Vrieler who is a PhD student in the UpCERG group. Åsa Cajander is one of the co-authors of the paper together with Aletta Nylén. The paper reports on the experiences made and what lessons there are to learn from the summer course and is called: “What Computing Instructors Did Last Summer – Experiences & Lessons Learned”. There will be more papers published from this summer course and they will make use of social capital theory.

3) The third paper is a paper where Aletta Nylén is the main author, and Åsa Cajander is one of the co-authors. The paper discusses students and their thinking related to higher education learning, and the paper is called: “Why are we here? Student perspectives on the goal of STEM higher education”.

4) The fourth paper presents a new method for scaffolding teamwork competencies through the use of a role play and the personas method. The main author of the paper is Arnold Pears, and Åsa Cajander from HTO is one of the co-authors and writes about her experiences using the personas method for discussing strategies to motivate peers in teamwork. The paper is called “The Archetype Learning Method – Scaffolding Teamwork Competences in the Engineering Classroom”.

The Frontiers in Education conference will be held in Indianapolis in the US, October 18-21, 2017. This is one of the core conferences in engineering education and includes research on a large variety of areas such as gender and IT, programming courses and professional competencies. Usually a large group of people from the UpCERG research group are present at the conference. We’ll see if some from the HTO group will come too this year J