filter-bubble-2We need the internet to be that thing that we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together, to introduce us to new ideas and new people and different perspectives and it’s not going to do that if it leaves us all isolated on a web of one’ ( Eli Pariser). If you had asked me what I thought the main purpose of the internet is I would have said exactly this.However from watching Eli Pariser’s presentation it has opened my eyes to the term ‘filter bubbles’ and I have found out how this has a huge significance on what the internet exposes to us but more importantly what it doesn’t expose. If you click on this link you can watch the presentation for yourself.

Defined by Wikipedia, ‘a filter bubble is a result state in which a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as location, past click behaviour and search history) and, as a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles’.  Prime examples are Google’s personalised search results and Facebook’s personalised news stream.

As Eric Schmidt stated ‘The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see but not necessarily what we need to see’. So this makes me question, how is he internet is going to benefit us if it only exposes us to what it thinks ‘we want to see but not necessarily what we need to see’?. We have entered a new era of personalization. With little notice, our online experience is changing, as the websites we visit are increasingly tailoring themselves to us. Some people argue that this this filtering system is a positive step.  However I feel that this filtering system deprives our viewing power and closes us off from the rest of the world. Here is an article that may have interest to you.  For example more and more people discover news and content through Facebook-like personalized feeds, the stuff that really matters falls out of the picture. In the Darwinian environment of the hyper-relevant news feed, content about issues like homelessness or climate change can’t compete with goofy viral videos, celebrity news, and kittens. The public sphere falls out of view. And that matters, because while we can lose sight of our common problems, they don’t lose sight of us.

I have become fascinated with this whole filter bubble term. To date I have looked at snippets of Pariser’s book in which discusses the idea of collaborating filtering which tracks what users like. Amazon, Facebook and Google engage in this filtering system. Google uses check signals which puts information in order of relevance and importance to the user. Facebook also uses goggles approach. The newsfeed feature of Facebook is a way of filtering through lots of social information and ordering based on affinity with each person and importance of news. This gives advertisers an opportunity to gain information. Advertisers spend their money on the website that can provide them the most return on advertising. This filtering system shifts the power to the advertising companies. The personalisation of Google and Facebook present large companies with access to valuable information about the individual.

Here is an interesting piece that Eli Pariser has written. Himself and Peter Koechley have togther created a website to overcome this ‘filter buble’ phenomena. Their aim is to help bring attention and focus to stuff that really matters in a viral format that can reach millions. For example, they have an inspiring video about gay marraige on the website. This helped draw attention to at MoveOn got seen by over a million people who are against gay marriage. So there’s real bubble-popping potential here.

I for one will not be clicking into the first thing that pops up on Google. Does Google really know what I want to see?? I don’t think so!

We are a world becoming more and more controlled by this filter bubble. How far will we allow this go on?! It is about time we burst this buble!