Personalization & The Filter Bubble

Because of the influx in available information on the Internet, it seems inevitable and necessary that a system would eventually be created to better help people find what they need while simultaneously streamlining advertising based on their observed interests. While the filter bubble is helpful in sifting through the intimidating masses of information available to us, it also limits the amount of material we are exposed to, diminishing our capacity for creativity and our general realm of knowledge. It is hard to say whether the positives of personalization outweigh the negatives, but it is important that individuals are aware of this phenomenon.

Pariser believes that as media outlets continues to expand, we are bound to suffer an “attention crash.”  As human beings, we actually depend on these filters to make the Internet decipherable. There is not enough time in the day nor do we have enough energy to sort through every single source pertaining to a topic we are interested in.  The filter bubble simply gives us easy access. Yet at the same time, the distorting effect that these filters create limit our exposure to information we may not have otherwise seen.  As the Pariser reading states, “Stripped of the surprise of unexpected events and associations, a perfectly filtered world would provoke less learning.”  Given these opposing facts, we must educate ourselves, as users, on the existence and effects of the filter bubble.  The Internet enables access to discovery yet also deters the individual from doing so by presenting a special, personalized world for each of its users that does not ignite an interest in anything outside of what they would normally choose.  As technological developments become closer and closer to enabling exact personalization, we need to be aware of this if we want to maintain our creative ingenuity.

The same struggle between pros and cons can be observed in looking at an individual’s participation in online activism.  In his article, Morozov discusses the ways in which “slacktivism” hinders our true devotion to a cause. For one thing, it is far easier to get on board with something when its sole requirement is the clicking of a “join group” button.  Yet at the same time, he claims it may “enhance one’s eagerness to participate in real-life.”  Again, this dichotomy must be presented to and weighed by participants of slacktivism campaigns.  Is the filter bubble developing at such a rapid pace that it is slowly becoming unrecognizable/inescapable?  If we begin to monitor how information is presented to us, are we are more likely to maintain our autonomy when choosing what we involve ourselves in and what information we feel disposed to?

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This entry was posted in Winter 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Personalization & The Filter Bubble

  1. jlpirr says:

    I think that you pose some very interesting questions and points in your analysis. I agree that there are both positive and negative aspects of personalization and slacktivism, and I think you pose some interesting questions.

    When you asked the question, “Is the filter bubble developing at such a rapid pace that it is slowly becoming unrecognizable/inescapable?” I immediately thought about my own experiences with the internet. Prior to these readings, I knew that our information was altered when surfing the Web, but I really did not know to what extent. Even while taking many classes on the internet, I had never heard of the expression “filter bubble” until now. I think that my experience, therefore, is an example of just how fast this filter bubble idea is growing, because even people our age, who are “supposed” to be the most tech-savvy, may not have any idea that all of their information is personalized. To answer more of your question, I do think that the filter bubble is becoming inescapable, especially for those who know even less then we do now.

    I think that your two questions have the potential to work well together. I think that the filter bubble is rapidly expanding, and I also think that there is a way to “save” ourselves from this personalization. It’s not to say that people can prevent this personalization from happening, but they can fight back against personalization by visiting various news sources to get information, or by showing an openness to varying viewpoints online. I do not think that fighting personalization would be easy, but if someone was dedicated, it could be done. Most people, however, will probably continue using the internet in mostly the same way, and they will succumb to the filter bubble that is created. I think that in the next few years there need to be changes to the internet so that we do not become a society of naive citizens who only care and pay attention to their own interests.

  2. Pingback: You should get out of your Filter Bubble once in a while – politics 2.0

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