A few days ago, I clicked on a link from my facebook feed and listened to Eli Pariser, described as a “pioneering online organizer,” give a presentation entitled, Beware Online ‘Filter Bubbles.’ I found it fascinating. (Thanks Ruthie.)
Pariser is concerned about the unintended consequences of the increasingly common practice of filtering web searches and facebook news feeds based on personal preferences. He began to investigate this when he noticed that his conservative friends were less and less likely to show up on his liberally inclined facebook news feed. I applaud him for appreciating input from a variety of perspectives and for recognizing that he was hearing only one voice in what could have been a much richer two part harmony.
Pariser’s warning of “filter bubble” fallout can be extended to our self-selected radio and television choices. In their search for advertising revenue and for content to fill round the clock air time, cable news and talk radio programs reinforce the ideological preferences of their target markets by the skillful filtering and spinning of news stories. So we tune into the voices that sing from our preferred song sheet.
It is evidence of my own relatively conservative “filter bubble” that I had not previously heard of Eli Pariser. As Pariser points out, we all tend to prefer ideas that we agree with and news that is slanted at roughly the same angle as our own ideological bent. His ideas and political views are no doubt decidedly different from mine. I don’t visit the websites he visits. He probably doesn’t click on my favorites. We likely get our information from entirely different sources. Yet I agree with him that we need to be exposed to the ideas and perspectives of others.
In our information rich environment we simply must filter the news feed. No one can possibly keep up with all the news and get all sides of every issue. It’s vitally important to recognize that our news is being filtered and that it is slanted. There is always another side to the story and if you’re only hearing one side, then you are under informed.
Pariser argues for more transparent internet filters and for users to have more control over them so we understand what is being filtered and why. If we’re not careful, he says, we’ll end up isolated in a web of one, stuck with ourselves and our own preferences. I completely agree with him.
Who filters your news? Where do you go for different perspectives?