Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Great Dumb-ening

What I am blogging about is in response to this article summarizing a book Eli Pariser called The Filter Bubble.

Is the progressive social and algorithmic filtering of the web reducing your exposure and understanding of what's out there? I have many reservations to the social trend that is set to infiltrate every aspect of the web, but I hadn't given much thought to the way information is already being shaped for me. I have long been aware that Google shapes its search result on every piece of info they can glean from you. It has been increasingly hard for me to know what being #1 in search results actually means. I mean even if you were to do a search in a virgin browser on a machine without wifi or location turned on Google will still try and guess your location based on ip and serve up results that cater to that area. Is it even possible to get at the #1 overall result. The only way I have found is to look up search terms in Google's webmaster tools.

Every search, tweet, blog post (especially in blogger) and who knows how much info gathered from my surfing in Chrome goes to make my web surfing "easier" but also a little less diverse, a little more single minded. And that is what I consider to be the more restrained version of the dumb-ening. I am a little fearful of what would happen when my social graph were let loose on my discovery on the web. Do I need to rethink every "friend", every subsequent graph that I have plugged into? We in a sense would be taking that algorithm and narrowing it down to the few voices that I have linked myself to, moreover reducing it to those voices that I interact the most with.

In both of these scenarios, being more diverse in my searches/friends will probably keep the gates open a little wider, but what will still be a concern is the secret filtering. The silent nudge in the discovery of web data that informs my decisions and understanding of the world. The world that we, not long ago, were made connected to via the web.

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