“The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see”, says Eli Pariser.
Following up from my post on social search, and how in creating more filtered-personalised search results we get less serendipity, I thought some of you might be interested in this TED presentation from Eli Pasier.
In it, Pariser explores how the personalisation of the web – be it on Facebook, Google or elsewhere – is creating ‘filter bubbles’. Whilst the web promised us freedom from media gatekeepers, he believes that in reality there has been a passing of a torch, “From human gate keepers to algorithmic ones”.
He writes in his book:
“Most of us assume that when we google a term, we all see the same results – the ones that the company’s famous Page Rank algorithm suggests are the most authoritative based on other pages’ links. But since December 2009, this is no longer true. Now you get the result that Google’s algorithm suggests is best for you in particular – and someone else may see something entirely different. In other words, there is no standard Google any more.”
Pariser outlines why this may be a problem for society and democracy, as the web feeds us what it thinks we should know, against what we are potentially really looking for, or perhaps just need to know.
“[...] you don’t choose to enter the bubble. When you turn on Fox News or read The New Statesman, you’re making a decision about what kind of filter to use to make sense of the world. It’s an active process, and like putting on a pair of tinted glasses, you can guess how the editors’ leaning shapes your perception. You don’t make the same kind of choice with personalised filters. They come to you – and because they drive up profits for the websites that use them, they’ll become harder and harder to avoid.”
These ideas take notions of like-mindedness, such as research by Cass Sunstein, a step further, and more out of our control. Whilst many of us might actively try to follow, search for and discover ideas outside of our comfort zone, unwittingly these attempts may be in vain.
Note: For a longer extract of Pasier’s book see this piece in the Guardian.
Google’s Matt Cutts responds to the questions raised by personalisation of search
Financial Times book review of The Filter Bubble by Christoper Caldwell – ‘A dystopian view of online freedoms’