More on The Filter Bubble

If you were interested in this post back here, you might want to check out this review of Eli Pariser’s book, The Filter Bubble. An excerpt:

… Personalization is meant to make Internet users happy: It shows them information that mathematical calculations indicate is more likely than generalized content to be of interest. Google’s personalized search results track dozens of variables to deliver the links that a user is predicted to be most likely to click on. As a result, Google users click on more of the results that they get. That’s good for Google, good for its advertisers, good for other websites and presumably good for the user.

But Mr. Pariser worries that there’s a dark downside to giving people their own custom version of the Internet. “Personalization isn’t just shaping what we buy,” he writes. “Thirty-six percent of Americans under thirty get their news through social networking sites.” As we become increasingly dependent on the Internet for our view of the world, and as the Internet becomes more and more fine-tuned to show us only what we like, the would-be information superhighway risks becoming a land of cul-de-sacs, with each of its users living in an individualized bubble created by automated filters—of which the user is barely aware.

To Mr. Pariser, these well-intended filters pose a serious threat to democracy by undermining political debate. If partisans on either side of the issues seem uninterested in the opposition’s thinking nowadays, wait until Google’s helpful sorters really step up their game….

If you read the book, let me know how it comes out. The review said was strong on identifying a problem, not so hot on solutions. Which I wouldn’t blame on Pariser. No one else knows the answer, either.

4 thoughts on “More on The Filter Bubble

  1. bud

    This is a non problem. Hopefully the government won’t get involved and ruin the internet.

  2. Nick Nielsen

    No, bud, it is a problem.

    There’s a difference between intentionally limiting your information sources (watching only Fox News or MSNBC, for example) and not knowing that your information sources are being limited. If all you are exposed to when you search the internet is information that corroborates your worldview and opinions, you won’t know that there are alternative viewpoints. Not only that, when you do discover opinions that differ from yours, you will most likely consider them radical or marginal, because if their opinions were reasonable and valid, you would see them on the internet.

  3. Brad

    Hey, Chris! How’s Oxford? Chris McCormick, ladies and gentlemen, checking in from the U.K…

    Actually, the TED talk was what originally drew me to the topic. I embedded it back here. I thought it was really impressive.

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