Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Beware online "filter bubbles" - Eli Pariser's TED Talk

Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles" (filmed March 2011)

I hope you will agree that Pariser's TED Talk ties in with this week's topic: TOPIC 5: MEDIA AND NEWS LITERACY 
"Pioneering online organizer Eli Pariser is the author of "The Filter Bubble," talks about how personalized search might be narrowing our worldview. 
Abstract: As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy."
Pariser reminds us that we are seeing a Web based upon 'invisible algorithmic editing' of relevance. Yes, the algorithms are created by humans but the resultant 'personalization' leads to what Pariser calls "filter bubbles". And he calls for a return to the 'civic responsibility' displayed by the human gatekeepers of our past (the role that newspapers and other media provided us). "...We need the new gatekeepers to encode that kind of responsibility into the code that they're writing."

"So if algorithms are going to curate the world for us, if they're going to decide what we get to see and what we don't get to see, then we need to make sure that they're not just keyed to relevance. We need to make sure that they also show us things that are uncomfortable or challenging or important -- this is what TED does -- other points of view."

Points worth considering as we reframe our own information literacy.


  1. This is a fascinating idea Kate! I never thought that something designed for speed and convenience could be problematic. However, this seems to be true. Search engines do indeed narrow our scope, and force us into accepting only what is given to us. What if some results are purposely left out because they are controversial or challenge our thinking? How do we prevent this?

    1. Brittany, we know that certain countries 'edit' by limiting content that can be seen by their citizens (China tops the list, I believe). Since we are not privy to the algorithms used by a particular search engine, I believe the only way we CAN 'reality test' our results is by using a Metasearch Engine. By querying several search engines simultaneously, you can see things you might otherwise have missed. My favorite online Metasearch tool is Dogpile , which simultaneously searches Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex. But I also recommend you Bookmark Infopeople's Search Tools on your browser or even consider making it your HomePage! [Also look at Infopeople's Best Search Tools .]