Why We Need Bubbles
At this year’s TED, Eli Pariser launched the idea behind his book; The Filter Bubble. The point he made was compelling: As the Internet grew, search engines and content providers began to automatically second-guess what we might like to look at. Google’s success flourished on the back of relevant search results, and individual sites suggested that if we watched, read, liked or glanced at this, we should check this other thing out. They were only being helpful, weren’t they?
Not according to Pariser. He says that such recommendation mechanisms work like blinders, restricting and narrowing our views and even our aspirations. By being constantly presented with more of what we like, and more that is similar to what we’ve had before, eventually it will be impossible for us to come across anything that is new, unusual, or challenging. The Filters, to use Pariser’s metaphor, present us with nothing but tasty information junk food, where really we could do with a few vegetables.
Now, I work for a technology company called The Filter, which does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides a software platform for Digital Entertainment Content Providers that allows them to give their users relevant and personalized recommendations about what they might like to watch, listen to, read and play. It is the brainchild of musician and tech entrepreneur Peter Gabriel, who envisaged a world where intelligent recommendations would become crucial to the way we consume everything. He was certainly right about that, but he was also passionate about the way in which these recommendations would actually work. He said that the algorithms should be clever enough to predict what you would like to watch at a certain time, depending on where you were, who you were with, and what your mood might be. And it should also, he said, surprise you with non-obvious and challenging choices. Gabriel, in other words, wanted to feed us some content vegetables too.Continued on the next page