While the Internet has the ability to democratize and inform the public, new personalization features are threatening and destroying this potential. In his introduction of The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser explains that an invisible revolution is occurring in the way we consume information. Democracy requires a reliance on shared facts, and personalization prevents people from receiving the same facts by offering them “parallel but separate universes” (Pariser, 5). Based on what you “like”, search for, buy, and so on, the Internet orchestrates a personalized world or “bubble” that is specific to you. Pariser explains “more and more, your computer is a kind of one-way mirror, reflecting your own interests while algorithmic observers watch what you click” (Pariser, 3).
This one-way mirror can become dangerous to democracy and learning. One of my favorite quotes from Pariser’s introduction is his reference to Danah Boyd’s speech at the 2009 Web 2.0 Expo where she warns that “if we’re not careful, we’re going to develop the psychological equivalent of obesity” (Pariser, 14).
It is scary to think that we are, in a sense, choosing how we are censored. Our current lifestyles and choices today will become our worst enemy in our quest for objective information and knowledge. How will we ever be exposed to new ideas and different perspectives if we are constantly bombarded with what we already believe? It’s comfortable in this filter bubble, yes. But what kind of progress could possibly from complacency?
Evengy Morozov expands upon the idea of censorship in the third chapter of his book The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. In his discussion of Russian media and politics he states, “the most effective system of Internet control is not the one that has the most sophisticated and draconian system of censorship, but the one that has no need for censorship whatsoever” (Morozov, 58).
How do you feel about personalization on the Internet? Do you see it as a positive feature that improves efficiency and helps us find information that we would normally be looking for anyway? Do you see it as a form of censorship that hinders our right and access to equal information? Or, do you see it as something different?