The Perspective website provides readers with a perspective that is different from their own. While the site features current affairs ranging from politics to fashion, it actually takes on a larger purpose: The Perspective aims to combat a threat whose effect is turning society into a more polarized and less tolerant one. This disturbing phenomenon is called Virtual Echo Boxes (VEB).
To understand VEB, let’s take a closer look at social media. We increasingly view the world through our social media feeds. More and more people get their news from Facebook or Twitter, which is where public opinion is formed. However, these feeds are filtered, highly subjective and provide a very specific view of the world. We interact with more people who are like us and see views that are similar to our own. We also tend to come across knowledge that we already have. Our perceptions are constantly justified.
The repetitiveness of specific “hot” topics (like Trump, Sanders, refugees, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, etc., ) all viewed from the same general perspective website (whether pro or against, depending on your circle) intensifies our beliefs in a particular issue. This makes it harder to consider that there are other, different attitudes.
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Whether we acknowledge it or not, we live in VEB, where we are driven to develop strong beliefs on just about everything that counts. While there certainly are intelligent opinions out there that differ from our own, we don’t see them. VEB blind us to views that may question our own.
This VEB effect is made worse by a fragmented media landscape. Whether your news source is FOX News or The New York Times, you know what views you’ll be reading or hearing before you even turn on the TV, click on the website or open the newspaper.
Another causal factor contributing to VEB is the personalization drive, which guides the digital age. It is made to provide comfort, not to challenge. For instance, Google’s search engine shows different results to different people. While this makes sense when it comes to utility or knowledge, it creates a problem when the subject matter is a debatable one. So, for example, when two people type into Google “the right to bear arms, ” one can get a report on “protests for anti-gun laws” while the other can get an advert for a sale on guns in a local store.
This is where The Perspective website comes in. It does something fairly simple yet revolutionary in today’s digital age: It displays the hot topics of the day with two opposing, highly subjective yet intelligent articles covering them. Visitors can read articles, leave comments or play games. The site is currently a beta site, and there are many content formats waiting to be merged that all aim to serve the same cause – diversity. The website founders plan to develop the content brand step by step. Their mission, as the site states, is not to change minds, merely to open them up a bit.