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Futures Forum

This spring, the IN/LAB Futures Forum brought together young adults and journalists from Aftonbladet, Svenska Dagbladet and Omni to discuss desirable futures for the news media. Now we are excited to share some of the insights from our conversations!

"Sometimes young people and journalists think alike, and sometimes very differently. I think it is important that many perspectives are lifted and heard.” 

This is what one of our participants said during the Futures Forum project - a discussion forum focused on creating meaningful connections and innovative discussions between media professionals and young adults. Our goal was to create a space for participants to network and get to know each other while also exploring desirable futures for the news media.

For three sessions in Stockholm, we gathered a group of 17 people consisting of representatives from Aftonbladet, Svenska Dagbladet and Omni and 18-20 year olds connected to the youth movement Run For Office. The starting point was a thought-provoking exhibition called News Futures that presented four speculative prototypes challenging the way news is produced and consumed today.

We want to extend a warm thanks to the group for sharing their thoughts with us and are happy to present some of the insights from these conversations, touching upon the relationship between AI and journalists, users’ own agency and trivialisation of news.

Here are three needs connected to future news experiences that the group expressed in our talks!

1. Wanting a hybrid news experience

In the future, both AI avatars and human journalists should help people make sense of the news, according to the group. A personal AI avatar can provide quick and straightforward answers to the user’s questions about specific news stories. Many of the younger participants had experience using chatbots and think it is easier to iterate responses with an AI compared to a human conversation. One of them said “You don’t have to be embarrassed to ask it [the AI] to ‘re-do it’ or ‘answer better’, but when it comes to humans you might need to settle for an answer”. 

At the same time, the group values genuine human interaction and believes there are some questions better suited for (human) journalists. “The personal interaction is important, you can get a lot out of that”, one person said. The group expected these interactions to provide more nuance and include personal and professional experiences. These kinds of answers felt more trustworthy coming from a person rather than a machine.

So, who should provide this kind of support to make sense of the news? The media participants wereconvinced that it was up to them and a part of the journalistic mission.“If a majority of the population misunderstands the media, we have done a bad job”, said one of them. While many young group members agreed, they claimed individuals should also actively try to understand what is happening in the world.

2. Calling for user agency

Many group members were drawn to elements that let the user shape the news experience, for example by suggesting missing perspectives on a news story. They also appreciate prominent perspectives being clearly presented, i.e. who is heard and their narrative or viewpoint. Incorporating transparency and feedback tools in a news service helps the user to hold the news media accountable for what they publish. “This is exciting! Transparency is good, it gives you an opportunity to scrutinise the journalism", said one person.

This puts expectations on journalists to process feedback effectively, find new stories or angles and connect back notifying users about new information in a story - tasks where journalists could team up with AI. Still, a journalistic eye is needed to separate genuine input from potential coordinated campaigns to influence public opinion. One journalist said “We often seem afraid that people will influence public opinion, that they will misuse a function. We should not be so afraid of feedback.”

One of the most highly valued functions was being able to choose what format you consume a news story in and switch between formats without losing context or nuance. This is a desirable future in the eyes of the group as it makes the news more tailored to personal needs and preferences, but also that “it makes news accessible to everyone".n”.

3. Rejecting trivialisation of news

The group expressed negative sentiment towards elements like news gamification and adapting news content to fit the emotional capacity of the user. Young participants said it might lead to trivialisation and dehumanisation, for example in reporting on war and conflict zones. This risks distancing the audience from people in the stories and real societal challenges. As one person said, “the conflict gets dehumanised. It becomes pretend when people are actually suffering.” Another wondered, “Where would it end? There are long term risks, like that we end up in a surveillance society”, expressing concern over emotionally adapted content being used to manipulate people into consumption.

Instead, news reporting should strive for authenticity and empathy. The group emphasised the importance of news being objective, trustworthy and not emotionally driven. One person explained that “I would rather go back and read news when I’m in the right mindset than be curled into it”, suggesting letting users choose the number of times per day or week to get news about a topic. Even though the young participants confirmed that negative news can feel overwhelming, they expressed a desire for genuine, personal and empathetic stories that they can consume on their own terms.


Do you have questions about this work? Please contact Molly Grönlund Müller!


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