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Follow the Filter Bubble

Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee weighs in: “There’s danger in the filter bubble”


/ June 16th, 2011 /

In 1989, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim Berners-Lee) invented the World Wide Web. Since then, he’s been an advocate for his creation, preaching the gospel of openness against some of the encroaching forces. (This recent Scientific American article is especially worth reading.)

Recently, an attendee at an Internet Society conference in New York asked him about the filter bubble. Here’s a (slightly cleaned up) transcript of how he responded — emphasis mine.

The filter bubble phenomenon, I think that noun is applied to the idea that a search engine can get to know you and so it can get to know the source of things it thinks you’re interested in. You will end up in a bubble because you will reward the search engine — you will go to the search engine — it feeds you things which you’re excited about and happy about and it won’t feed you things which get you thinking.

. . . As a result, you end up being dedicated to your tribe. You will never understand as a Yankee why the Red Sox were so ‘cachuffed’ to beat you a couple of years ago. As an Israeli you will never understand why you’re upsetting the Palestinian people. So, there’s danger in the filter bubble… Once you’re bracketed as somebody who buys pretty expensive stuff, the web won’t show you the cheap stuff and so you wont believe that the cheap stuff exists. You’ll have a twisted view of the world.

So I think that’s a really interesting thing. Somebody mentioned the Web Science Trust. [This] discussion is very much what I call a web science issue, if you look at this sort of thing you really have to look at humanity connected as a very large system and you have to use a lot of different… you have to use sociology, psychology, you have to use economics and you have to use mathematics as well as computer science to figure out the web and figure out what the implications of this will be.

(The video is here, around minute 31.)

Pretty cool.


 


3 Responses to “Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee weighs in: “There’s danger in the filter bubble””

  1. What we’re working on at Jawaya is significantly different from the filter bubble, but still allows for tremendous personalization.

    When you’re fed SEO-targeted information based on a high degree of personalization & algorithmic guessing, yes, you get the bubble.

    What we’re doing is much more people-driven, and without skewing the results toward SEO-targeted sites or behavorial analysis. We’re much more interested in connecting you with your true interests as expressed through your searches, by connecting you to people who’ve endorsed the content.

    Launching beta in a day or so…

  2. Perhaps Google and the others should give us a choice of
    1) Use my filter bubble
    2) Don’t use my filter bubble
    3) Use someone else’s bubble

    I just posted this at DrDougGreen.com

  3. PsiDoc` says:

    How is that any worse than the bubble that everyone lived in before mass media?

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