you will think what I tell you to think

from monday’s gleanings Welcome to Monday. is the book everyone is talking about. Supposedly in it (I’ll […]

from monday’s gleanings

Welcome to Monday. is the book everyone is talking about. Supposedly in it (I’ll cheerfully admit I haven’t read it and feel no urgency to do so), the author speculates that new technologies will allow us to become ignorant about the world around us and more intolerant, because we’ll be able to filter out the news we don’t want. Has he ever seen a family read the newspaper? In the most archetypical scenario, mom takes the food section, dad takes sports, brother takes classified, sis take fashion and little one reads comics. In a real life a similar but perhaps less gender driven scenario takes place: people read the sections that interest them. Ever watch someone couch surf across the TV channels? Filters happen.

Instead the author should be grateful that email allows people to forward news articles to each other, suddenly allowing a human filter to push through current events through the way a newsbreak interrupts a rerun of “friends”.

Of course gleanings is very much a “daily me:” a human filter for your news. Don’t you-all go having any orginal thoughts without me, y’hear.

Law Professor Sees Hazard in Personalized News

and matt rose then wrote

Well yes, but doesn’t that prove the author’s point? Maybe it’s not just new technologies alone that allow the filtering to happen. The point is that filtering does happen, and new technologies make it easier to do this.

Filtering can be a good thing, but it is also certainly open to abuse. It doesn’t necessarily allow more and better information through, it provides a way for the person to monitor the types of information they access, and adjust accordingly to get only the information they want. This matches your archetypical newspaper model, and it matches the way people personalize Web sites, news sites, sports sites, etc., so they only see the items they want to see.

In no way can this be construed as the user getting a full and unbiased account of the world around them. This is still true of the newspaper model, so it’s not necessarily a Luddite reaction on my part. But the newspaper is at least delivered to your home in a complete unit, unlike the sports bullets on your favorite team that you get from a wireless delivery service, or unlike news on the Middle East conflict that one chooses to access only from a pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian point of view. If

individuals filter too much, they are in grave danger of creating an information source for themselves that is completely one-sided, and are willfully blinding themselves to things that they may not think are of interest when creating the initial filter, but which they could find fascinating.

This is the thing that bugs me most about personalization and information filtering. There is little opportunity for the chance discovery, the possibility that a random piece of information one would not expect to know is interesting beforehand jumps out at you and becomes a worthwhile part of your knowledge base. If we can program ourselves and our news sources to map to only what we want to hear, that DOES lead to mass ignorance and increasing tolerance.

Just a thought.

Good point. I’ve put the book on my wishlist. i still think these issues are too complex to be summed up as filters bad, filters good. I think it’s more like filters inevitable, and information leaks out despite filters. can people be forced to be more knowledgable and tolerant than they choose to be? maybe, maybe not. not sure. have to ponder more…

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