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Open Library Explorer: struggle with the «algorithmic bubble»


At the Library Leaders Forum 2020 (demo), Open Library unveiled the beta for what it’s calling the Explorer: an immersive digital library which powerfully recreates and enhances the experience of navigating a physical library. If the tagline doesn’t grab your attention, wait until you see it in action.

The primary goal of the Library Explorer was to create an experimental interface that «opens the door» for readers to engage and interact with their favorite books. The Library Explorer is one of many steps that both the Internet Archive and the Open Library have made towards making knowledge accessible.

Some sites, like Netflix or Youtube, solve this problem with recommendation engines that populate information based on what people have previously seen or searched. Consequently, readers may unknowingly find themselves caught in a sort of «algorithmic bubble».

An algorithmic bubble (or «filter bubble») is a state of intellectual or informational isolation that’s perpetuated by personalized content. Algorithmic bubbles can make it difficult for users to access information beyond their own opinions – effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological silos.

Drini Cami, the creator of Library Explorer, says that users’ caught inside these algorithmic bubbles «won’t be exposed to information that is completely foreign to [them]. There is no way to systematically and feasibly explore». Hence the reasoning behind the Library Explorer’s intelligence comes out of a need for queryable information without the constraints of algorithmic bubbles.

If you’re pulling up a chair for the first time, the Library Explorer presents you with tall, clickable bookshelves situated across your screen. Each shelf has its own identity that can morph into new classes of books and subject categories with a single click. And that’s only the beginning of what it offers.

The Library Explorer is packed with other smart features such as intuitive book filters designed to sort through millions of books at the speed of light! Well, maybe not that fast but it’s pretty fast.

In addition to those smart filters, the Library Explorer wants you to steer the ship… not the other way around. In other words, you can personalize single rows of books, expand entire shelves, or construct an entire library-experience that evolves around your exact interests. You can custom tailor your own personal library from the comfort of your device, wherever you may be.

Source: https://blog.openlibrary.org/2020/12/16/introducing-the-open-library-explorer/

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