After watching Eli Pariser’s discussion on “filter bubbles”, it made me open my eyes to the things that the internet filters out. He begins by talking about how we all thought that the internet was the greatest creation when it first evolved. Everyone believed that it opened the doors of communication and those “gates” that were once put up were now taken down. I can honestly say that for the longest time, I have felt this way. It is always so easy to communicate with others and search things instantly. What we didn’t realize however, is that the internet has been filtering the things we search. Pariser mentions that on his Facebook he talks to both Liberal’s and Conservatives. One day he realized that all of the Conservative posts were deleted from his news feed. The reason for this was, he was responding more to the liberal’s so Facebook felt it was appropriate to delete the Conservatives posts. Without permission, warning, anything, the posts were gone in the blink of an eye.
The scary thing is, that the internet has a bunch of signals that are here filtering your search results. They can signal where you are, what type of computer your using, where your sitting, etc. Scary right? With all these signals, the search results that we are getting are differing from those in a different location, using different computers, different everything. Eli Pariser discovered this when he asked a couple of his friends to google Egypt. When one friend got completely different results than another friend, these “filter bubbles” turned out to be true. I’m half tempted to try this search with my friends to see what differences we come up with in our search engines.
This filtering, it’s not just happening with Facebook or Google if that’s what your led to believe. It’s happening with all sites on the web. Our results are changing and what we thought was the greatest creation, evolution, and opportunity for us is now causing us to second guess.
Pariser goes on to talk about how we were so excited that these gates of communication were now open, but the truth is, these little gate keepers have just gone from human to algorithmic. What the ideal thing would be is to have a blend of results. For example, a little bit of vegetable here and then a little bit of desert here. Whats happening though is that if were searching just “desert” the web is now filtering out those vegetables, and only giving us the desert. Now this is just one example, but you can get the idea.
If we don’t have the blend that is expected from the availability of the web, then isn’t all that greatness we expected from the creation gone? The “gates” we had before the web are still there, they’ve just changed their “Style”.