Not Signed-In
Which clippings match 'Silo' keyword pg.1 of 1
31 MAY 2011

Eli Pariser: beware online 'filter bubbles'

"Mark Zuckerberg, a journalist was asking him a question about the news feed. And the journalist was asking him, 'Why is this so important?' And Zuckerberg said, 'A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.' And I want to talk about what a Web based on that idea of relevance might look like.

So when I was growing up in a really rural area in Maine, the Internet meant something very different to me. It meant a connection to the world. It meant something that would connect us all together. And I was sure that it was going to be great for democracy and for our society. But there's this shift in how information is flowing online, and it's invisible. And if we don't pay attention to it, it could be a real problem. So I first noticed this in a place I spend a lot of time –– my Facebook page. I'm progressive, politically –– big surprise –– but I've always gone out of my way to meet conservatives. I like hearing what they're thinking about; I like seeing what they link to; I like learning a thing or two. And so I was surprised when I noticed one day that the conservatives had disappeared from my Facebook feed. And what it turned out was going on was that Facebook was looking at which links I clicked on, and it was noticing that, actually, I was clicking more on my liberal friends' links than on my conservative friends' links. And without consulting me about it, it had edited them out. They disappeared.

So Facebook isn't the only place that's doing this kind of invisible, algorithmic editing of the Web. Google's doing it too. If I search for something, and you search for something, even right now at the very same time, we may get very different search results. Even if you're logged out, one engineer told me, there are 57 signals that Google looks at –– everything from what kind of computer you're on to what kind of browser you're using to where you're located –– that it uses to personally tailor your query results. Think about it for a second: there is no standard Google anymore. And you know, the funny thing about this is that it's hard to see. You can't see how different your search results are from anyone else's.

But a couple of weeks ago, I asked a bunch of friends to Google 'Egypt' and to send me screen shots of what they got. So here's my friend Scott's screen shot. And here's my friend Daniel's screen shot. When you put them side–by–side, you don't even have to read the links to see how different these two pages are. But when you do read the links, it's really quite remarkable. Daniel didn't get anything about the protests in Egypt at all in his first page of Google results. Scott's results were full of them. And this was the big story of the day at that time. That's how different these results are becoming.

So it's not just Google and Facebook either. This is something that's sweeping the Web. There are a whole host of companies that are doing this kind of personalization. Yahoo News, the biggest news site on the Internet, is now personalized –– different people get different things. Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the New York Times –– all flirting with personalization in various ways. And this moves us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see. As Eric Schmidt said, 'It will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them.'

So I do think this is a problem. And I think, if you take all of these filters together, you take all these algorithms, you get what I call a filter bubble. And your filter bubble is your own personal unique universe of information that you live in online. And what's in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But the thing is that you don't decide what gets in. And more importantly, you don't actually see what gets edited out. So one of the problems with the filter bubble was discovered by some researchers at Netflix. And they were looking at the Netflix queues, and they noticed something kind of funny that a lot of us probably have noticed, which is there are some movies that just sort of zip right up and out to our houses. They enter the queue, they just zip right out. So 'Iron Man' zips right out, and 'Waiting for Superman' can wait for a really long time.

What they discovered was that in our Netflix queues there's this epic struggle going on between our future aspirational selves and our more impulsive present selves. You know we all want to be someone who has watched 'Rashomon,' but right now we want to watch 'Ace Ventura' for the fourth time. (Laughter) So the best editing gives us a bit of both. It gives us a little bit of Justin Bieber and a little bit of Afghanistan. It gives us some information vegetables, it gives us some information dessert. And the challenge with these kinds of algorithmic filters, these personalized filters, is that, because they're mainly looking at what you click on first, it can throw off that balance. And instead of a balanced information diet, you can end up surrounded by information junk food.

What this suggests is actually that we may have the story about the Internet wrong. In a broadcast society –– this is how the founding mythology goes –– in a broadcast society, there were these gatekeepers, the editors, and they controlled the flows of information. And along came the Internet and it swept them out of the way, and it allowed all of us to connect together, and it was awesome. But that's not actually what's happening right now. What we're seeing is more of a passing of the torch from human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones. And the thing is that the algorithms don't yet have the kind of embedded ethics that the editors did. 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.

And the thing is we've actually been here before as a society. In 1915, it's not like newspapers were sweating a lot about their civic responsibilities. Then people noticed that they were doing something really important. That, in fact, you couldn't have a functioning democracy if citizens didn't get a good flow of information. That the newspapers were critical, because they were acting as the filter, and then journalistic ethics developed. It wasn't perfect, but it got us through the last century. And so now, we're kind of back in 1915 on the Web. And we need the new gatekeepers to encode that kind of responsibility into the code that they're writing.

I know that there are a lot of people here from Facebook and from Google –– Larry and Sergey –– people who have helped build the Web as it is, and I'm grateful for that. But we really need you to make sure that these algorithms have encoded in them a sense of the public life, a sense of civic responsibility. We need you to make sure that they're transparent enough that we can see what the rules are that determine what gets through our filters. And we need you to give us some control, so that we can decide what gets through and what doesn't. Because I think we really need the Internet to be that thing that we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together. We need it to introduce us to new ideas and new people and different perspectives. And it's not going to do that if it leaves us all isolated in a Web of one."

(Eli Pariser, TED.com)

Fig.1 recorded at TED2011, March 2011, in Long Beach, CA. duration: 9:05

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TAGS

57 signals • algorithmic editing • algorithmic filters • algorithmic gatekeepers • authorised voiceauthorship • balanced information diet • broadcast society • challenging consensus • civic responsibilities • civic responsibility • content editors • curate the world for us • demassificationdemocracydifferent perspectivesecho chamberEgyptEli Pariser • embedded ethics • Eric SchmidtFacebookfilterfilter bubbles • gatekeeper • Google IncHuffington Post • human gatekeepers • information dessert • information flows • information junk food • insular • insular communitiesinsulationisolated in a Web of one • journalistic ethics • Mark ZuckerbergNetflixnew ideas • new people • New York Timesno single standard • personal unique universe of information • personalisation • personalised filters • query results tailoring • relevancesearchsilotailoredTED Talksthe self • uncomfortable • Washington Post • Yahoo News

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
28 APRIL 2010

Decision time for the Royal College of Art

"This week is an important one for the future of graphic design in the UK, writes Michael Johnson. The Royal College of Art, the world's only post grad art and design school, interviews the shortlist of candidates to run its Communication Art and Design course. But with CA&D a decade old, has Art proved too much of a distraction from Design? ...

Communications graduates have been at pains to present their work within the context of white walled galleries, not grubby old commerce. Work has often been presented as 'work in progress', never finished. The 'process' has become the king, not the problem to be solved. ...

The roots of this was the self–immersion/self expression phase of British design prevalent in the nineties, fuelled by then–zeitgeist collective Tomato. This found an eager audience in South Kensington. Rightly or wrongly, a collection of part–time tutors were gathered to support the course with performance, video art, experimental film and art specialisms. Coupled with the merger of the traditional disciplines, the ground was laid for a new generation of crossover graphic artists to bloom.

But they haven't. By all accounts the department is just as silo–ridden as it ever was. If you don't believe there's an art bias, just a brief interrogation of the department's website reveals that of the dozen or so current MPhil and PhD students, the vast majority describe themselves as artists (and only two as graphic designers).

In the meantime, the better undergraduate courses like Glasgow, Kingston and St Martins* (in the UK) have successfully incorporated these 'conceptual' leanings into their courses, whilst still producing graduates capable of the basics of craft and typography. Students from these courses may not glean much more from two more years at college, apart from more room to experiment, and have often chosen simply to start work and get on with their lives. ...

Meanwhile, post–grad courses are the only growth area left in education and are springing up on a monthly basis – soon the 'MA in design' might be as ubiquitous as an 'A star at A–level'. In short, there's a lot of competition and the RCA needs to clarify exactly why a student should spend two more years there. At present it's pretty blurry, apart from avoiding a recession–hit industry just a little longer and the undoubted kudos of those letters after your name."

(Michael Johnson, Creative Review, 8 March 2010)

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TAGS

2010alumniartart and design • art show • artistBrighton • CA&D • call to actionCentral Saint MartinsCentral Saint Martins College of Arts and Design • Communication Art and Design • craftDaniel Eatockdesign processexperimental film • Fuel Design • Glasgowgraphic designgraphic designer • Graphic Though Facility • graphics course • illustration course • illustrator • Jonathan Barnbrook • Kingston UniversityLCCMA • MA in design • MPhilperformancePhD • post graduate art and design school • RCARoyal College of Art • Sara Fanelli • siloTomato (design agency)typefacetypographyUKundergraduatevideo art • Why Nots • work in progresszeitgeist

CONTRIBUTOR

Shaun Belcher
24 APRIL 2010

Long Live Postdisciplinary Studies!

"Interdisciplinary studies are not enough, for at worst they provide a space in which members of different disciplines can bring their points of view together in order to compete behind a thin disguise of cooperation, so the researchers don't actually escape from their home disciplines – at best they merely offer the prospect of such an escape.

Post–disciplinary studies emerge when scholars forget about disciplines and whether ideas can be identified with any particular one; they identify with learning rather than with disciplines. They follows ideas and connections wherever they lead instead of following them only as far as the border of their discipline. It doesn't mean dilettantism or eclecticism, ending up doing a lot of things badly. It differs from those things precisely because it requires us to follow connections. One can still study a coherent group of phenomena, in fact since one is not dividing it up and selecting out elements appropriate to a particular discipline, it can be more coherent than disciplinary studies.

It's common to say one can only do interdisciplinary studies after one has first got a good grounding in a particular discipline. This is a kind of holding position for conservatives, involving minimal compromise: it also reduces the chances of those who go on to attempt interdisciplinary studies of leaving their discipline."

(Andrew Sayer, 1999)

Fig.1 Diane F. Ramos, 2008. 'Polarican', M.F.A. Thesis Exhibition, The George Washington University.

2). Andrew Sayer, 'Long Live Postdisciplinary Studies! Sociology and the curse of disciplinaryparochialism/imperialism', published by the Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YN, UK

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TAGS

1999context • dilettantism • disciplinary imperialism • disciplinary knowledge • disciplinary parochialism • disciplinesdiscursive fieldeclecticismenquiryinterdisciplinarity • interdisciplinary studies • knowledgeLancaster University • post-disciplinary studies • post-disciplinepostdisciplinary • postdisciplinary studies • pursuit of knowledgerelationsilosociologywhole reality

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
19 OCTOBER 2005

Interdisciplinarity is implicitly an idea of a unified, whole reality

"Interdisciplinarity is a commonly discussed alternative to the disciplinary pursuit of knowledge. It is often presented in the context of a critique of the disciplines. However, interdisciplinary enquiry emerges in response to problems defined in terms of the disciplines, and it is usually advanced as a way of enhancing the disciplinary pursuit of knowledge of reality. Most significantly, the emphasis of interdisciplinarity is on the unification of knowledge as a whole. Like the disciplines, interdisciplinarity is implicitly an idea of a unified, whole reality. It does not replace the disciplines but fills in alleged gaps between them by creating "cross–disciplines" that are in effect additional disciplines. The purpose of going "between" the disciplines is to realise a broader, more complete, and integrated understanding of phenomena than is afforded by any single discipline. Modern interdisciplinarity seeks to resolve sharp disciplinary distinctions in order to render the pursuit of knowledge into a coherent totality. It tries to repair the modern fragmentation of knowledge and bring the disciplines together so that the disciplinary project of knowledge of reality can be realised. For these reasons, interdisciplinarity is largely an uncritical extension of the disciplines rather than a critical alternative. Interdisciplinarity functions, in practice as opposed to rhetoric, as a logical implication of the disciplines and defines itself in terms of them."
(Roger Philip Mourad Jr., p.81–82)

Mourad, Roger P Jr. 1997 'Postmodern Philosophical Critique and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Higher Education', Westport, USA: Bergin & Garvey. ISBN: 0897895541

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