Understanding the use and effects of personalized media and their implications for law and policy
The term personalized communication captures the fundamental change in and challenges of, communication today: On the one hand, profiling and targeting users with customized messages can offer a solution to “digital” challenges, such as information overload, the resulting attention scarcity, and the fierce competition for users’ loyalty. Through personalized news content, search results, and apps, consumers can be addressed individually to match their consumption patterns and profiles; health information can be targeted and shared to enhance specific lifestyles; political information can be adjusted to individual voter profiles. On the other hand, personalized communication can lead to manipulated or biased communication that, in the worst case, deprives users of access to more meaningful or more diverse information. And the personalization of information offers unprecedented opportunities for abuse by stereotyping, discriminating, and sorting society into virtual profiles.
This research initiative focuses specifically on the uses and implications of personalized information and communication for individuals and society. Given the shift from “mass communication” to personalized communication, new theoretical approaches are needed to advance existing communication theories, and novel questions wait to be addressed.
The objective of this initiative is to conduct empirical and normative research on the uses, effects, and implications of personalized communication in the areas of politics, health, and commerce. This project has also a strong outreach function, integrating the perspectives from other research groups within and outside the UvA, initiating international cooperation, playing an active role in advising policymakers and stakeholders, and contributing to a lively public debate through the media and public lectures.
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(2018) Interested in diversity: The role of user attitudes, algorithmic feedback loops, and policy in news personalization. Digital Journalism. [HTML]
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Bol, N., Helberger, N., & Van Weert, J. C. M. (2018). Differences in mobile health app use: A source of new digital inequalities? The Information Society, 34(3), 183-193. [HTML]