At the end of June, the core research team – Graham Smith, Michael Morrell and Paolo Spada – met for the first time face-to-face rather than virtually. The meeting established a preliminary timeline. We aim to have an initial platform ready for October to begin user testing, which will end user testing by Christmas. That means by March we can have updated the platform and start the experiment. We also discussed at length the role of comment moderators. Should moderation be ex-ante? Many media comment platforms moderate contributors’ initial comments before they go live to ensure they are respectful and understand the rules of the platform. Depending on the level of comments, we should be able to do that with one facilitator for the European Time Zone and facilitator for the US time zone. The deliberatorium has generally been used with ex-ante facilitation whereas Pol.is is thinking about crowd moderation. We are weighing up the options. Do you have any evidence that could help us?
CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF DEMOCRACY – FUNDED RESEARCH
The public sphere around media outlets offers many examples of dysfunctional behaviours that undermine the quality of public discourse. This is particularly the case with online public comments sections on news sites that attract thousands of people every day.
Can re-designing comments platforms promote more reason-based, intellectually humble dialogue? This is the question the Scholio project aims to explore, through a large-scale field experiment.
The field experiment will recruit ordinary citizens who read online news and randomly assign them to experience different perspective-taking instructions and platforms that organise and visualise comments in different ways. The project will also field-test a set of measures for investigating intellectual humility in online environments.
The aim of the Scholio project is to develop a scalable model for how news media institutions, and others, can incorporate comment platforms that promote reason-based, intellectually humble dialogue.
Scholio is one of 10 projects funded by the John Templeton Foundation within the broader Humility and Conviction in Public Life programme at the University of Connecticut.
The project runs for two years from 1 March 2017.
Today we had a skype conference call among the co-PIs and we decided that our experimental environment will be similar to the Monkey Cage. We selected the Monkey Cage because it is a medium size blog within the Wahington Post and is the perfect target for the level of engagement we can achieve with our current funding. We hope to engage somewhere between 5 to 10,000 people in our experiment. To create experimental group we will divide our community into 12 groups, so we will have less than a 1,000 people commenting on news in each group during the experiment. The Monkey Cage has a simple layout and has enough space at the bottom of each article to place our treatments. The next issue we need to decide is the topics for our experiment.
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