The filtered world

Pariser starts his argument by defining the meaning behind the title of his book. The filter bubble is the tiny world everyone has willingly or unwillingly created for themselves through their media choices.  This bubble changes with almost every click of the mouse, but there are pros and cons to living in the bubble. The bubble limits what you see and what you experience. According to Pariser it could even affect who you date, where you go on that date, and what you talk about there.  The bubble affects our lives sometimes without us even knowing about it.  The good thing about the bubble is that everyone gets information that’s pertinent to them, but the bad is that they don’t get information that takes them out of their own sphere. Prasier’s example of his Facebook filtering out republican postings shows that the filter bubble could even increase partisanship because neither side is hearing the other’s argument.

Apart from not hearing the other side, people now generate content that perpetuates the bubble.  Specialized bloggers become a forum for discussion that is usually only among a certain group of people.  The rise of user-generated content has also caused a problem in how we get our information.  As Pariser discusses, blogs are now taken at the same trust level as traditional news sources like the evening news and newspapers. This can be good because it takes away some agenda setting power from traditional news outlets and puts it in the hands of the people, but can also be bad because ‘citizen-journalists’ aren’t held to the same standards as professional journalists.  Slander easily becomes an unspoken truth for a short period of time because of bloggers and internet trolls. The number of times I’ve had to google ‘Did Morgan Freeman die?’ because of a rumor I saw on Facebook is too many for comfort.

Pariser makes the argument that traditional journalists are sometimes ‘in too deep’ with their sources or cities to understand what the rest of the country wants to talk about, but what the rest of the country wants to talk about isn’t necessarily what they need to know. While a lot of the country would like to know the details of Honey Boo Boo’s mom’s wedding, let’s face it it’s not as important as what’s going on every day in the Middle East.  Just because a story isn’t as glamorous or captivating, doesn’t mean it’s not something that needs to be written and read.

The scariest thing about the bubble is that some people have lived their entire lives inside it.  Hyper-personalization is creating citizens who don’t hear about all the issues and according to Morozov don’t care as much.  Morozov discusses the idea of ‘slacktivism,’ meaning activism with the least amount of effort.  In today’s world people can put their name on an internet petition and be done with an issue, or even just join a cause on Facebook. This activism is done without leaving the comfort of a bed. Morozov argues that this type of activism is deterring traditional activism; that it’s stopping people from physically going to protest or confront a problem.  I don’t believe this is the case.  If anything slacktivism involves people who never would have participated in activism pre-internet.  There are still passionate protesters who don’t think ‘liking’ an idea on Facebook is enough.  The internet helps activists more than it hurts it simply by making it easier to organize.

Do you agree with Morozov that slacktivism discourages traditional activism, or do you see it as a new tool that promotes it? What do you think of the Filter Bubble’s role in Slacktivism?

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

3 Responses to The filtered world

  1. John D'Adamo says:

    I see slactivism as a supplement to, rather than a replacement of, traditional activism. While traditional activism will always be around, when circumstances force a group to collectively form to fight against change, slactivism is a way for people who want to nominally support a cause, through liking and sharing on Facebook, or signing a petition, or putting some flair on their webpage, to do so. As deputy PR chair for the Coalition for Tuition Equality at the University of Michigan I can attest to this- we collectively united around a common goal, in-state tuition for undocumented students. While there were some who merely liked or shared on social media (which was great and helped share and spread the message), hundreds of students and faculty came to events and rallies in support of us. We were able to successfully utilize mediums of all types, including print media (through working with reporters), and social media, as well as through flyering and word of mouth. Therefore I disagree with the notion of a complete replacement of traditional activism.
    Pariser, on the other hand, does have a point. His quote “Left to their own devices, perzonalization filters serve up a kind of invisible autopropaganda, indoctrinating with our own ideas, amplifying our desire for things that are familiar and leaving us oblivious to the dangers lurking in the dark territory of the unknown (15)” has some truth to it in respect to the ways in which internet websites personalize one’s content. It becomes more difficult to find opposing information, which gives a sense of comfort but at the same time is very dangerous for a society that should have a fluid and multidimensional exchange of ideas.

  2. hansmith91 says:

    I agree with your point that slacktivism does not necessarily deter traditional activism, but rather captures the attention of people who would normally be unassociated with the issue at hand. If you think about it, a true activist tends to be a person who has a deeply rooted connection with a particular issue. Caring about a cause or merely sympathizing with its purpose does not necessarily label a person as an activist. For this reason, I see activists and “people who care” as two very separate categories. While slaktivism campaigns are created by true activists, it seems that a majority of their eventual following is made up of that other group, or what I refer to as “those who care.” I think the main point of slacktivist campaigns is to raise awareness, not necessarily generate action. If true activists will continue to be physically invested in their causes, what is the harm in gaining a few (million) more followers to help spread the word?

  3. snayeon says:

    Although I do agree that the Internet helps activists become more involved and aware about various issues, I think that slacktivism can discourage traditional activism and does not have the ability to inspire actual and realistic changes. Thousands of Facebook users can spread awareness by liking a petition online and sharing different political and social problems and news on their newsfeeds. However, those who are supporting different causes online might not even bother researching more about it and might be doing it because of selfish reasons, such as trying to making themselves feel better and showing others how involved they are. As you mentioned, the filter bubble causes society to be stuck in their own bubbles, where the Internet is personalized to fit our needs and interests. As a result, instead of caring about the global and societal concerns and problems, we not only become more self-centered and narrow-minded but we also become too comfortable to leave our bubbles and enter a “reality” that does not parallel our own Internet bubble. In addition, I think activism is not only about spreading awareness and getting the numbers but really understanding why you are fighting for something and wanting to bring about a change. Compared to traditional activist, I think “slacktivists” are more passive and hold more discussions about wanting to bring about a change than actually doing it. I think slacktivism is great for capturing a bigger audience, but it needs aspects of traditional activism in order to truly generate a change that leaves a significant impact on society.

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