Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Social media bubble

One of the interesting concepts of the modern age is that we all live in our own social media bubble.

With broadcast media on the decline (I have not watched traditional TV in years) and news spread by social media, and the likes of FaceBook and Twitter, we all see a different viewpoint.

The idea is simple, to me, almost all of my "friends" and followers on twitter and Facebook mostly agree with my views. That is why I select or tolerate them being "friends".

This is because I, and they, choose their associations and create this "bubble" of "like minded" people.

The problem is we have no voice, or ear, outside our bubble, and we see the world as those inside that bubble. It is an odd situation.

I do have a few "friends" that are there because of historic or geographic perspective, e.g. a brother of someone I knew at school and a relative of someone that was in the same place for CB radio when I was any university. They are outside my "perspective bubble" due to pure geography and timing. Even so, they often appear on social media to me as outliers. They have unexpected views.

They will all have their own social media bubble.

So, what is the implication of this?

Well, there are people that think alike and communicate and associate together. But there is no system of government, even within the geographic confines of a country, that works to address this. We do not see the MP for facebook bubble "likes RevK", do we? And maybe we should?

Maybe the differing social "bubbles" should have their own constituencies, with voters choosing the group with which they associate? Maybe we should be able to choose to vote for virtual constituencies within the UK rather than where we physically live.

After all, for local services we can vote on the local council. But for governing the country we need more virtual constituencies and a choice of where we vote?

If we have to have constituencies, and MPs, why not allow EVERYONE in the UK to select the group in which they vote? It would quickly align with social media bubbles and allow some more representative central government.

19 comments:

  1. I have suggested to acquaintances that as the number of people born in May in the UK is about the same as the number of people in Scotland, why couldn't we have a referendum about leaving the UK, just as the Scots did.

    The reaction is generally disbelief that I have made such a suggestion and looks that indicate they think I'm a total nutter.

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  2. Aren't you essentially talking about proportional representation, with a very large constituency, or aligning on something other than physical boundaries?

    France has separate constituencies and MPs (or rather their equivalent) for people living outside the country. Should we have something similar here?

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  3. "Maybe we should be able to choose to vote for virtual constituencies within the UK rather than where we physically live."

    Some electoral schemes have this, e.g. the London Assembly elections. You have a physical constituency where you vote for a particular candidate (usually party-affiliated) to represent you locally, and then you get an extra PR-style vote that elects someone from the "party list" to take a non-physical constituency seat.

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Additional_Member_System

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  4. Some forms of PR have representatives from each party in an area.. it's a nice system as you're always represented by someone who is likely to share your worldview.

    Virtual constituencies make more sense the more people associate on the internet - My friends are not geographically clustered, and many aren't even from the UK. Where I live only comes into play when I decide to actually go and meet them.

    OTOH I think we're years off that - one 'bubble' we inhabit is the existence of social media/internet at all... large chunks of the population only have a vague idea of the internet and many are openly hostile to it (because the newspapers have told them it's the cause of terrorism etc.). They live their life in what we would see as the past - watching live TV, getting the news from newspapers and friends in the same town.. that's not going to change for a generation.

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  5. One of the reasons I'm not on Facebook and Twitter is to avoid this self selecting bubble situation. My most common source of news is broadcast radio, followed by the BBC web site (all right it has it's own bias but at least it's not customised for me). Most of my TV is timeshifted broadcast using a PVR. My phone is not a smartphone because they're too big to carry in your pocket and too small to use for Apps and browsing the web. I carry a small pay as you go 2G phone, and in my bag I have an iPad for Apps and browsing the web. I guess I count as strange to many people.

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    1. Not strange at all to me. I'm more or less exactly the same for the very same reasons, except that I use a desktop instead of your iPad. I did recently 'join' Twitter but with entirely fake personal information using a disposable email, just to better see comments from the likes of RevK and my golfing interests. I rarely comment or engage. As I'm retired there is nothing so urgent that it can't wait until I get home to my desktop - with a decent sized screen.

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  6. Interesting that IT people are drawn to such challenges - it's essentially system design, right?

    My answer would be to dynamically size constituencies per party, so everyone everywhere in the country has a representative from the party they support (assuming the party they vote for gets enough votes across the country to get one MP).

    At one end of the scale, that'd mean that a minority interest party that can get 60,000 votes or so would get one MP who would represent the whole UK for that party. It would probably mean the end of minority local-interest parties and local independent candidates, unless they can find another way to get the votes.

    At the other end of the scale, areas that vote e.g. 80% Labour would more-or-less keep their MPs, but Conservative voters in that area would be represented by an MP covering a larger area.

    No wasted votes, guaranteed representation, guaranteed local interest. The only hard part would be selecting the winning MPs in each party, which probably needs a magic algorithm combining number of votes with geographical area to get a nice result. Nothing that can't be solved, though. And election nights would be interesting because nobody would know the outcome until all votes had been counted. (Boring solution to this would be to involve computers and get the results instantly; you could probably use blockchain to secure that all votes are counted; but I don't see that happening.)

    Of course, you'll never get anything like this because the turkeys won't vote for Christmas.

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    1. I really like that idea and look forward to hearing the media trying to explain it to the great unwashed :-)

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  7. After reading "The Filter Bubble", I try to make an effort to read things which I think will rankle, or else I think I'll disagree with, to try and ensure that I don't get stuck in a particular frame of mind just because it is all I exposed to.

    I'm particularly conscious of this on Twitter, when I am (by choice) exposed to lots of people with very strong views on a relatively narrow range of issues. They are, for the most part, interesting, but I couldn't claim that they were representative of the views of the average person, and there's a risk, I think, of losing sight of this. That many of the people I follow on Twitter are jumping up and down about something doesn't mean that the average person cares too much, if at all.

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  8. The main standard arguments against PR (I'd like STV) is that with FPTP you get "strong governments" and you can tie MPs to constituencies.

    To me, that just means we compromise. We keep FPTP, but we abolish the current house of lords and replace it with a 2nd chamber that is appointed by a party list system, directly proportional to the share of the national vote for each party.

    This keeps our current situation in the commons, but means legislation has to pass through a proportional house.

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    1. I think 'parties' are the problem and more of that in a second chamber wouldn't help. For example, I doubt that David Davis agrees with any of May's IT illiterate proposals, or even the insidious IP Act, based on his past comments and actions. Unfortunately, having resigned previously, he won't speak out against May because the party system means he would lose his cabinet job.

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  9. I like the idea of non-geographical association - the idea that I have more in common with, say, a farmer 10 miles away than a software developer 300 miles away always seemed a bit far-fetched, regarding anything other than local policies which aren't an MP's remit anyway.

    As a compromise, perhaps having larger constituencies elect multiple MPs would help - if we could agree on a suitable mechanism! Of course, I'd also like more direct democracy, with less reliance on representation which may or may not actually be representative on any given issue...

    Having an appropriate number - pro-rata - of MPs elected for different expat constituencies would seem quite sensible to me too, rather than treating expats as if they still lived in whatever domestic constituency they happened to live in last.

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  10. The Scottish Parliament, London Assembly and Welsh Assembly all already uses a compromise system, called the "Additional Member System" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Additional_Member_System). It implements a variation on this idea, where there are "extra" seats, not linked to a constituency, that are given out in proportion to your "second" vote.

    In AMS your "first" vote is for a named candidate who gets the constituency seat. Your "second" vote is for a party list; seats are allocated from party lists to ensure that the overall composition of the body matches the proportions of the party list votes - thus, if Conservatives get 50% of the party list vote, but 80% of the constituencies, they get very few top-up seats, while if Lib Dems got 10% of the constituencies, and 40% of the party list vote, they'd get many top-up seats.

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    1. I had not really thought about it, but that would be a good way to gradually moved to proportional representation. Over a pre-set period of many years you gradually make constituencies larger and have fewer constituency members as you add more additional members. Maybe retaining constituencies at a small number of larger areas or something or maybe eventually going to full proportional representation. Set the time scale to do it gradually so the MPs voting on it are unlikely yo see it to the end and hence be badly effected.

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    2. Ah, the joys of the Modified D'Hondt method. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%27Hondt_method for more). There's a calculator for playing with here - http://icon.cat/util/elections

      I'm not sure that all of the parties in London even understand it (certainly not all of the Mayoral Candidates do).

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  11. BTW, if this is an area that's beginning to interest you, https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B06W5222DW/ is a decently written informal exploration of a few voting systems for a single post election - it's not perfect, by any means, but it talks through the compromises that each of the systems it covers entails.

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    1. I'll take "anything which elects from the Smith set" for 5 please Simon

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  12. How about replacing the upper house with one based on cross-area social groups, so a set of representatives elected by academics, another by bankers etc. One house geographical, the other social.

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    1. A related idea I've been toying with is the idea that the upper house follows the same constituencies as the lower, but is conscripted from possible voters. You are paid MAX(annual income known to HMRC in the last 5 years * 2, MP salary) for your stint, but it's illegal to refuse.

      Basically a way to have a house that's a genuine cross-section of the electorate, good and bad...

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