Filter Bubbles

TED is a non-profit, donation-based organization dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.” They bring together different fields, ideologies, and specialties to speak at their annual conventions, and then produce these talks as free to the public on their website. It is a necessary, timely, and rapidly growing phenomenon. If you are not already familiar with it, I highly recommend that you become so.

 

One particular talk has stood out to me as relevant to all of us as individuals, as well as perpetuates the philosophies that TED strives to promote. Eli Pariser, CEO of Upworthy.com, a website, like TED, that is devoted to the spread of meaningful content. He speaks with us, this time, about the dangers of online “filter bubbles.”

 

Our view of the Internet is as unique and diverse as the actual individual surfing. Google has at least 57 ways of deciphering what you like, what you want to see right now, and they use this to create a filter for the results of your search. This is true for other companies as well such as your Facebook newsfeed. There is an overabundance of information available today, but where does this algorithmic search engine stop providing a service, and begins to limit and in effect shape our image of the world around us.

Eli spoke of his childhood interpretation of the Internet and his hope that it will still connect us all over the world. This becomes more difficult as our individual “filter bubbles” set in. He showed a side-by-side comparison of two men, who live in the same area, both query for the same information, and yield completely different results. This is something that, while I was aware of this concept to a degree, really opened my eyes to the severity of the specialization.

 

The “Internet’s idea of relevance” is a necessary component of its function as the technology and its use grows and diversifies. Eli Pariser petitions the gatekeepers and developers of our access to the web, to incorporate this philosophy of unity into its future, as he strives to do in his endeavors. As consumers, we too can be aware of the balance of our wants and needs when it comes to our access to the digital world.