Beware of online filter bubbles- Eli Pariser

Jonathan Worth referred to the idea of filter bubbles and the way an individual searches online through commercial search engines. Matt Johnston provided us with an avenue to pursue this idea further by watching the Ted Talk with Eli Pariser.

It is without doubt that the Internet is the defining product and indeed the catalyst of the digital revolution, presenting the user with a means to research and experience without having to leave their desk. However as Eli Pariser identifies in this Ted Talk there has been an ‘invisible shift’ in the way the we follow information online as a result of these search engines, the consequences of which we may not be able to notice. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, commercial search engines examine and catalogue your previous search history and use it to tailor you future searches and the adverts that appear with them. This feature is primarily used to sift through the vast amount of content on the Internet and present you with the resources that it considers to be the most relevant to you. Social media platforms also track your activity and use this information to tailor your search results and construct your newsfeed. All these algorithms and formulas come together to construct a ‘filter bubble’: a mix of content produced for us based on each personal archive of information.

The defining characteristic of producing news is to consider that which would be in the public interest, therefore the best mix of content would be information that would both please us and challenge us. It is this balance that continues our growth as an individual and allows the capacity for us to take action against issues we don’t agree with. However we have seen a transition from human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones and also computers have been proven to accurately replicate a human; as it stands a computer is still unable to think like a human. [for more on this concept click here] If computers are going to be in control of our information we need to make sure that the information seen in our news feeds is not that which we would be constantly comfortable with; otherwise the majority of people would be continuously watching cute cat videos for the remainder of their lives. To have a functioning democracy there needs to be a constant flow of all information; without which our country would reflect that of China and Korea who restrict the information an individual can see.Unknowingly our search engines may be removing our freedom of discovering new content in their quest to continue producing information that it considers relevant. The term ‘relevant’ needs to be redefined in the area of Internet searching; to mean that essential mix of pleasing and challenging. This references Fred Ritchin’s urgency to start describing the world with new terminology instead of trying to relate unfamiliar elements back to that which we already know and understand. In addition to examining our new environment we also need to re-establish the element of control, we need to not only choose which result we want to see but choose the nature of our search.


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