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Reviewing an extremely critical book with views that I strongly agree with is harder than I thought it would be. Overall, I agree with almost all of Pariser’s notions. He is deeply worried about what will happen if our Internet worlds continue to get filtered and filtered until our computers know exactly what we want to ask them before we even get the chance to. First of all, The Filter Bubble is a concept, coined by Pariser, used to explain what the new generation of the Internet really is doing to us. He says that the “internet filter looks at the things you seem to like- the actual things you’ve done, or the things people like you like- and tries to extrapolate.” This used to just be a worry because of Google, but now more than a handful of sites and companies are adopting this type of optimization, especially for marketing. It optimizes everything, business wise. Advertisements are as streamlined as they could possibly be and the user is never getting pulled in the wrong direction towards something they are uninterested in. It’s a win-win situation, right? Pariser points out the flaws with this model that has become so embedded within our technological framework.
This book is for everybody that is curious about where things could go if we are not careful as well as media critics wondering what’s next. In Nancy Baym’s book “Personal Connections in the Digital Age” she critically defines technological determinism. I think that Pariser opinions are closely aligned with the theory of technological determinism. We hope that the public sphere is stronger than what will happen at the next Apple conference. We hope that the public will affect the technology, not the other way around. But with search personalization as a legitimate thing we are now dealing with, I am more fearful of what will happen to society if our own individual filter bubbles get smaller and more confined (Pariser as well).
Pariser is good at taking the other side as well, understanding that this is a sticky situation because having optimized results fitting our interests really does help, a lot of the time, and he says that, “to some extent, we’ve always consumed media that appealed to our interests and avocations and ignored much of the rest” but the difference now, is that, there are three new dynamics:
1) You are the only person in your filter bubble.
2) Your filter bubble is invisible: it’s hard to believe that results showing up on your Google or yahoo page are biased or subjective since you are not told this is what is going on.
3) You don’t choose to enter the bubble. Unlike television, where you know, most of the time, what type of view you are getting, the Internet is seemingly democratic and open, leading you to believe that what you stumble upon, is really just stumbling.
And Pariser says, it is not just stumbling!! This is the point he makes again and again that resonates with me. We believe that the internet is full of free information waiting for us to soak it up, what we don’t know is how much information and media we are missing just because of our past search history. What if there was a day where you binged on Justin Bieber videos? You may start seeing more celebrity-focused news and advertisements rather than what’s currently going on in Libya or Egypt. This is something to be worried about.