Search: Online “Filter Bubbles”

Eli Pariser

As Internet companies attempt to personalize their services to each user, there is an unintended result: we view an edited down version of reality that colors the world that we see. Eli Pariser discusses this in his latest TED talk that you can watch here.

The Web is made to connect the world. It’s a tool to connect and inspire us to think outside of our comfort zones. Pariser says Google’s attempt at personalization uses 57 different signals to tailor your unique search experience. These include the location of where you’re sitting, your computer, the type of browser you’re using, etc. Is this “personalization” healthy? Your search results are exclusive to you, but in return you can’t control what content comes in and you don’t know what is being edited out. Pariser calls this the “filter bubble.”

Filter Bubble

Before the Internet, broadcast journalism was being controlled by gatekeepers — editors that controlled the flow of information. Then one day the Internet came along, freeing all that up and allowing us to connect and personalize our experience. But now, algorithmic gatekeepers have replaced the human ones of the past. These modern gatekeepers are keyed only to relevance. Pariser says they should also measure if content is important, challenging or uncomfortable. All of these filters should be transparent enough so we have the power to control them.

You exist in a unique universe of online information. If we stay isolated in a web of one, the Internet is not the tool we intended it to be, which is a gateway of influences, connection and introductions to new perspectives. How do you feel about letting the Internet choose what it THINKS you should see vs. what you SHOULD see?