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Bubbles

Did you know that without any input from you, the internet you see is being filtered according to preferences that you may not even be fully conscious of? From Facebook to Google, to news sites and shopping, the world that you view through your computer might be very different from that of the person next to you. How do you think this might reinforce certain beliefs and understanding of issues around you? If you are receiving continual reinforcement of your opinions, do you think it might be harder to change them? If you’re missing information that could alter how you view a situation or a circumstance, do you think it might be difficult to make unbiased decisions? Truth is subjective, but what if you’re only getting one side’s version of it?

The video above is a TED talk that discusses these internet “bubbles” that are being created around our virtual lives and interactions. If you have 10 minutes, it’s very eye opening and not at all boring, I promise (although I suppose that’s subjective as well). Then come back and let me know whether you think this could contribute to the difficulties that arise from online discussions. When someone just can’t seem to wrap their head around a certain view point, is it possible that everything they get their opinion from is working against your own opinion? This isn’t to say that one is right or wrong, but that we are missing out on the necessary connections that come from full acknowledgement of the flipside. Are we being driven further apart by internet personalization?

Corktree

Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.

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7 Responses

  1. Alisa says:

    His overall point that we should take in multiple points of view is a good one, but I sort of disagree with his overall rhetorical strategy on how he creates urgency and who/what he villianizes along the way. So, for playing devil’s advocate:

    He makes it sound like we are trending toward a smaller bubble society, where we only interact with those with whom we agree. And where we are only allowed to buy products we are familiar with and make us comfortable.

    I would challenge him to show how we are more likely to be in a small bubble today than 20 years ago. And I would require that he look at all the ways we receive information today, not just the Internet. Sure, we can just look at the Internet like he does, but it creates a straw man.

    I tend to believe that even despite Internet algorithms, information of various sorts and quality and opinions is more available to us now than for previous non-Internet generations. For instance, I subscribe to a print-and-paper newspaper in my local area. My parents also subscribe to it, so it has been available to me for 30+ years. A few days after the US had gone to war in Lybia, the newspaper ran a story that took up 75% of the front page of the paper. Was it on the changes in Africa? Nope, it was telling me that there were 14 LDS missionary training centers in the world, which wasn’t even *news*–it was just information. Can you tell me that these old-fashioned ways of filtering information through a medium are better at delivering alternate points of view? In this case, it was a man, at an LDS Church-owned company, deciding that his readers didn’t want news from the world on their front page, but would rather hear about MTCs. (I have since dropped my 30-year loyalty to that paper and subscribe to the other leading paper in my area.)

    But the point is that whenever we have consumed information from the media, someone–something has already filtered it for us. Yes, the Internet filters the information we see. Yes, we should seek out other information. Yes, we should not be afraid to face the uncomfortable. But making it appear like we are trending to *less* diverse information just because *one* source of our information is given to algorithms based on our history and preferences doesn’t convice me that we’re all going to be in a “bubble of one.”

    I believe the issue of “bubbles” has been around for much, much longer. And I think that keeping up our bubbles can have some merit and even virtue. Taking care of our friends and family and church members isn’t all a bad thing. We should help others too, but not neglect the poeple right in front of us.

    Media have always had their limitations. Rather than railing against Amazon.com algorithms, why not just invite people to stop, turn off their computers, and have a real conversation?

    And if you disagree with me, just remember, I’m here to keep you from the bubble that just agrees with the TED presentation. 🙂

    • Corktree says:

      Ha, wonderful analysis Alisa. I’m actually glad you looked at it from that side – the presentation was making me paranoid that if I searched for something I wouldn’t get enough objectivity. 😉 I think it’s absolutely something to be aware of and that the precautions he calls for aren’t bad, but as you point out, they’re certainly not the only way we should be insuring that we get a more well rounded perspective.

  2. Davis says:

    To assume that the internet ever gives you good information is living dangerously. Everyone should assume that things are skewed. You have to be very specific about what you look for and accept. To ignore that fact is to be fed crap, just like in real life. In the real world, if you are lazy, you get crap. The internet is the same way.

  3. Kelly Ann says:

    Thank you Corktree for this link. It is a good reminder to think about the information we read online.

  4. Arkwelder says:

    Wow. That was awesome. Thank you for sharing. That site’s going on my bookmarks.

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