This piece of work, conducted as part of the CuRAtOR project, explored new approaches to engaging readers with online news. The growing debate around fake news, filter bubbles and echo chambers, has caused greater attention on the ways in which news is consumed, shared and reflected and commented upon. Although online news comments sections offer space for pluralist and critical discussion, our research on CuRAtOR suggested that this rarely occurs.
Newsr supported collaborative engagement with news stories by multiple users. Designed as a mobile application, Newsr delivered a range of different news headlines (taken from different prominent media organisations) to users each day, which they could then sift through to choose those to read in more depth. Giving just headlines was done to promote intrigue among users, but was also an attempt to give readers the opportunity to come into contact with a more diverse array of news stories, from different types of news organisations, than they would normally engage with. The main component of Newsr however was the presentation of the stories in the application, and a set of annotation tools that effectively allowed users to graffiti the stories. Annotation occurred in a collective manner, with users able to see the annotations of others, and to comment on top of and build on these. In evaluations of Newsr, we observed how this prompted diverse forms of engagement not just with the news stories themselves, but with other news readers and their diverse interpretations of politically engaged news content.