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GenderMeme (2016-17)

How much media do we read that is written from a male perspective? A lot. Do we wish that we could hear more diverse voices in the media we consume? Yes.  And can we do something about that? We believe so. GenderMeme is a product that takes in a stream of articles, and picks gender-balanced articles, from which it makes a magazine. (Imagine Flipboard, but with a newsfeed that has been designed for gender diversity). To do this, we will first perform a large-scale analysis of news stories, in order to understand it better, and we will also create a “thermometer” that summarizes the state of the media in real time.

In much of the world, men’s voices are predominantly heard in many aspects of public life and society. This extends to the media as well: it is gendered. For example, most articles that focus on politics and business are written about and by men, whereas other topics like health and beauty are predominantly covered by women. This is reflective of the structural inequalities in our system.

As a result of this partitioning of topics, consumers of media might be missing certain valid points of view and perspectives. The media we consume might also be subtly reinforcing our existing biases about gender. For example, when most subject experts on, say, science, quoted in newspapers are men, a newsreader might end up strongly associating science and technology with men alone.

Further, in the data age, the proliferation of information about user preferences has enabled the construction of personalized news feeds, which show a user articles that he/she is likely to find interesting. However, the personalization of news feeds can often lead to a “filter bubble”, where users are shown articles that align with their existing viewpoints, ultimately leading to a harmful lack of diversity in the news feeds exposed to a typical user.

Established in 2012, the Institute is a collaboration between Columbia and Stanford Universities. Our mission is simple: Sponsor thinking, building and speculating on how stories are discovered and told in a networked, digitized world.
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