Burning Filters and Popping Bubbles

The Personalization Paradox

Burning Filters and Popping Bubbles: The Personalization Paradox

834 472 Raymond Blijd

Read time: 1 min.

 In 2008 Clay Shirky coined the phrase “It’s not information overload. It filters failure.” In 2011 this was reversed by Nicolas Carr stating: “It’s not information overload. It filters success.” He also stated that we were, in fact, getting dumbed down by filters like Google. Eli Pariser at TED gave a presentation called Beware online “filter bubbles” which gave a warning of the dangers of filters and personalization. So are we going filter mad?

bubblesA question of perception

The reason for the filter upheaval is understandable from a certain perspective. So was book burning in its day. Filters have been around since there was information exchange of any sort. Eli Pariser made the case that in the last century we had filters called editors with build in ethics who decided to give us a wide spectrum of information. Algorithms – without ethics – are replacing editors in this century as our main filter. However, the problem is that algorithms for personalization will inevitably calculate your persona and provide you the information it can deduce you might want. This can be very confrontational. But that’s not much different from the previous century whereby the act of buying and reading a certain newspaper brand is highly ‘personal’ and would say a lot about who you are.

bubbles2The luxury of serendipity

In a world of consumer-targeted filters, do these also pose a “danger” for the business market? On the contrary, they are the core of the business proposition. The rise of information providers and publishers depended solely on finding the appropriate filters called sources, experts, authors, editors, etc . A lawyer arguing before the bench, a physician at the bedside, or an accountant before a filing deadline do not have the luxury of the accidental discovery of crucial information. They rely heavily on meticulously chosen filters to deliver in a clutch. And now they are requiring us to design better filters and not force them into haystacks to find a needle.

Information overload is a symptom best cured by filters that do not aggravate the problem or deceive the user.