Week 4

Pariser’s Chapter 1 in The Filter Bubble and Morozov’s Chapter 3 in the The Net Delusion are two of the more interesting chapters we have read in my opinion. They both bring up intriguing points that criticize the influence of the Internet in our society. They both use different themes of “escapism” and “push for relevance” to express their ideas about the filtering of the Internet.
Pariser goes over the idea of “the push for relevance” and how we as humans will only be responsive to news and information that is “relevant” for our lives. Companies like Amazon.com and Google have found ways to monetize relevance and they have made a significant contribution to how the Internet is now used. He talks about how Amazon.com was created and when he said, “If Amazon wasn’t quite able to create the feeling of a local bookstore, its personalization code nonetheless worked quite well” this brings up the theme of filtration and personalization of the Internet as a whole. Google caught wind of this and used a combination of Gmail and its search engine to track user preferences to tailor advertisements and search queries. He also talks about Facebook and how Mark Zuckerberg took personalization to a whole new level with the creation of “social graphs” and the idea of just “asking” users what they want to know. It made the Internet even more personal. Now we are able to see what we want to see, and this is the idea of filtering out information.
Morozov talks about the idea of escapism and how the Internet has so much information on it that it is easy to be interested things that are not “deemed” important. We should want to know more about the countries that are in poverty rather than the newest celebrity marriage. He points out, contrary to Shirkey, that the Internet is actually not a place for collaboration at all. It is too decentralized and “it would take a new generation of intellectuals—and unusually creative intellectuals at that—to awaken the captive minds of their fellow citizens form their current entertainment slumber”. The convenience that the Internet provides is not the best “conditions for fermenting dissent among the educated classes”. We have to learn how to “filter” out the amateurs that update their Twitter and Facebook statuses. Morozov also compares the two books 1984 and A Brave New World to the new Internet utopia. A world with Big Brother is supposed to be like 1984 and be rid of everything that we hate but instead Morozov says that we will be ruined in this escapism. While we thought the Internet might give us a generation of “digital renegades,” it may have given us a generation of “digital captives,” who know how to find comfort online, whatever the political realities of the physical world.

To follow that last quote my question is: With all of this filtering and personalization going on, if someone is only interested in celebrity gossip then they only receive news on that. Is this personalization actually going to make our society put less importance on activism?

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1 Response to Week 4

  1. daefros says:

    With all the different filters on the Internet such as Twitter it is possible to only view news/information that pertains to celebrity gossip and culture. Filtering and personalization of information have both negative and positive effects on activism. Personalizing one’s information to only celebrity culture might have negative influences because of the type of information being received. For example, I think that if there was a local problem that needed attention or activists I think that this person would be out of the loop and wouldn’t be able to get such news because of their filter. That being said, they may be active in the celebrity world. If there was controversy or a need for activism in terms of celebrity life or culture that person would be well aware and in fact might be more passionate about it than others. This topic raises a question of importance—what is important to some and not to others is often a good dynamic because there are going to be different people who take a stand and are active in different areas.
    I think that filtering could have negative impacts on society as a whole. People unite over common interests, current events, and problems in society; and if people are all tuned out to the extent of only receiving information on celebrity gossip then it might prohibit them from being active in some situations. This may leave a society severely detached. Personalization and filtering also narrows down not only the genre of information but the number of sources. There could be bias in the information one is receiving if it is very limited. When talking about personalization and filtering on Amazon or Facebook there is a give and take. When on the Amazon or Facebook website there is the possibility to explore the whole site even if you are just looking at books pertaining to celebrity gossip. Although as Pariser said, eventually if you are only looking at celebrity gossip then the recommendations and ads on the Internet will probably display products about celebrity gossip.

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