FWF - Echo-Kammern - Facing the Threats of Virtual Echo Chambers in Schools!

Project: Research project

Description

Constructively dealing with societal problems requires a process of opinion formation, which is preceded by a critical search of information from different perspectives and an evaluation thereof. It is thus with concern that we observe communicative processes in social media, which co-determine the current discourse on education policy under the notion of virtual echo chambers: user behavior in Facebook, WhatsApp and Co appears to be affected by a strong tendency or inertia of drawing virtual circles around like-minded people and to cut oneself off from alternative viewpoints.
Due to this development and our concerns about the public as a hub of different perspectives, the Austrian Ministry of Education e.g. considers introducing a specific subject on the acquisition of digital competences. The present Top Citizen Science (TCS) initiative takes up this consideration and aims at developing a training of pertinent competences and a design of supportive technologies in a transdisciplinary cooperation between school and university, i.e., through a combination of practical knowledge of teachers and a scientific knowledge, in particular of computer scientists and cognitive psychologists. The focus is on the acquisition of competences that enable students to (i) become aware of causes and consequences of an echo chamber and (ii) face them by means of a critical-reflective search for information.
The scientific starting point of this TCS initiative is the currently running FWF project OMFix (Overcoming Mental Fixation, P27709; https://omfix.wordpress.com). It deals with memory-psychological causes of mental fixation in social Web environments and develops an innovative logic of mentally stimulating information services. The TCS-based extension by the expertise of educators in teaching and training critical thinking and search will allow us to apply, deepen and implement insights gained in OMFix to the conceptualization of interdisciplinary training measures in the context of collaborative and inquiry-based learning. Methodologically, the approach is complementary to the experimental-quantitative approach of P27709: In the course of several workshops at schools, hands-on exercises on Web-based search and social interaction will take place. Qualitative analyses of observational protocols will then serve to identify difficulties and to discuss them with teachers and students in focus groups.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/10/1730/04/18