At a recent TED meeting, Eli Pariser of MoveOn had some really excellent insights about the promise of the WWW, and its new and growing limitations.
He's afraid we're moving into a worldwide web of one.
As you know, the past few years have seen us move from print and tv media being the gatekeepers of information - deciding what the public should read or hear - to the internet. A potentially limitless pool of knowledge awaits.
Or does it? As Google and FaceBook and others become ever more clever in their algorithmic logic, they're beginning to identify exactly what it is they think we want to know about. We've seen it in the online advertising that follows us everywhere, reminding us to buy that lamp or rug or plane ticket to HI. But it's far more insidious than that - the 'friends' you follow most on FB become self selecting; you see info on them daily. You don't read about all the others' lives you're supposedly following.
Based on my coming to DK regularly, and on being interested in renewables, the online search engines have determined that I want to read what Krugman and Kristofsen say, not what is said by Brooks and other blowhards.
While that suits my tastes, it doesn't suit my need for wider knowledge, for a more balanced perspective. It just reinforces what I already think.
We joke (or not) about how FOX viewers are force fed one line of crap and don't know there's a different world out there. Well, apparently so am I. Literally, what comes up on my Yahoo or Google or NYT news page is different from what may come up on my Uncle Bob's.
No wonder we're not all talking the same 'facts'. We're all seeing different studies and opinions, and having a more and more difficult time finding opposition.
Pariser makes a strong case to members of the audience - including two of the founders of Google - that future algorithms owe us "a sense of public life, of civic responsibility" to hear points of view that challenge us, that make us uncomfortable. As he pleads with them, "You need to give us back some of the control ... we need it to connect us to the new ideas, new perspectives."
Excellent, 9 minute video of him speaking, which I can't embed here....