Reclaiming individual autonomy and democratic discourse online: How to rebalance human and algorithmic decision making

Project Details


In one corner is the online information architecture with sophisticated personalization algorithms and persuasive designs that shape people's information diets, often without their knowledge or input. In the other corner is human cognition with its bounded resources and sensitivity to subtle environmental and social cues making it vulnerable to manipulation.

What could possibly go wrong?

If the two are brought together without much analysis and accountability, the public ceases to have control over the flow of information in our interconnected world. Unwanted consequences include the decrease of privacy and autonomy, the spread of false news, the rise of radicalization and polarization, as well as the decline in epistemic quality of information, all of which jeopardize the democratic discourse.

***Our mission is to analyze the interaction and potential conflict between the online information architecture and people's cognitive abilities, and to provide cognitively and technologically sound solutions to redress the critical impact of the current information architecture on the public good.***

We pursue two lines of attack:

1. Design information architectures that encourage deliberative cognition rather than capture of user attention.
2. Design tools that boost people’s ability to deploy deliberative cognition rather than emotive reflex online.

We adhere to these principles:

1. Interventions have to be quick, adaptive and ethically acceptable.
2. Interventions may build on current structures and utilize features of the online world.
3. Interventions do not censor content but are based on context and knowledge of cognition.

We pursue these principal steps:

1. We systematically analyze the interaction between algorithmically controlled information environments and the users’ cognitive capabilities---both at the individual and societal levels.
2. We search for indicators of epistemic quality of online content that are meaningful, that can be analyzed transparently and automated, and are not easy to game.
3. We design technical interventions and boosting tools, that are informed by cognitive science and make use of such indicators.
4. Ultimately, we provide scientifically informed recommendations for policy interventions of that kind.
Effective start/end date1/03/2130/06/25

Structured keywords

  • Cyber Security
  • TeDCog


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