A Web Of One

No. Those are not my words.

This is from a TED speech by Eli Pariser of MoveOn. MoveOn is a progressive organization and a political organization. Let me say outright that I agree with his basic analysis. He is right. In the internet, we surround ourselves with our friends and followers. I use feeds to filter news that I am interested in. I block those that’s not important to me. This works for those who are web savvy. For the average internet citizen, search algorithms and personalizations filter the web for them. These mathematical equations filter what we see and hear from our computer. And why is this a problem?

Eli Pariser dreamed of a world brought together by the internet. He instead find that the internet is increasingly isolating the individual from the irrelevant and unimportant and the disturbing. That’s not how you build a community.

To build a community (and a well rounded individual) every one must respect and value everyone else’s contribution. I listen to the opinions of other people (at least listen to contrasting ideas). The community’s health depends on the balance and interaction of many ideas. Search algorithms and personalizations block some information from me. I find myself swimming in this pool of information tailor fit to my own views.

If in the early years of printing, kings and popes dictated that only selected books could be printed, I am sure that western civilization as we know it will not exist.


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