By Paul Morris
Are you really getting all that the internet is trying to tell you?
I have been reading thoughts from Eli Pariser on his filter bubble concept and thought I’d share them as there is some quite thought provoking stuff in his ramblings.
Essentially Pariser states that increasing personalisation on the internet means you only get half the story by only receiving the opinions you will agree with.
This is due to several big tinternet players personalising search engine results based on what you engage with. As an example if two people were to conduct the same Google search they would almost certainly receive different results and Facebook filters out certain political stances/ friend feeds if you have not engaged (essentially clicked on) on them in the past.
Now whilst this personalisation will be hugely beneficial for many it does mean your world view is skewed.
The first question for me should be what qualifies as engagement to skew in the first place? Just because I do not click on something it does not mean I have not engaged with it and do not value its presence. A bigger question is should we be ‘morally subjected’ to these views regardless of a pre determined view of what qualifies as engagement?
By experiencing this personalised view of the world users simply receive reinforcement of their beliefs believing them to be correct and as they are unaware of the personalisation. Now this ‘distorted’ view clearly happens already if you read pretty much anything e.g. you pick up the Daily Mail and xenophobic views are thrust upon you! The difference here though is that, unless you are stupid, you know you are being subjected to a skewed world view.
Whilst I do not think Pariser has the answer on how to solve this problem e.g. the idea of installing transparent ethical algorithms (who takes charge as the ethical thought police?) or letting people filter their own searches (…by the use of tick boxes that gives the user the option to sort by: ‘relevant’, ‘important’, ‘uncomfortable’, ‘challenging’ and ‘other points of view’) it is nevertheless worth a ponder and at the very least worth considering greater transparency.