Algorithms, the new Gatekeepers

Posted by Flux on 

16 October 2012

What is trending?

Palimpsest: n. A manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often legible.

Following my last post, One for One for everyone , I want to show something like a palimpsest. The text that is lying hidden under the text.

The writing between the lines is this, this mass customisation can ironically have a possible negative effect on our creativity as the human race. Online filter bubbles, algorithms that predict what we will like determined by what we liked and clicked  before it slowly limiting what we will be exposed too when online.

Why its important?

In an attempt to sift through the information overload of the last two or so decades, we have created algorithms that predict what we will like according to a pre-determined set of criteria, including what we have watched or ‘liked’ before online. Google uses more than 50 criteria, from where you are sitting, to what machine you are using, to custom design your online experience. Sites such as Facebook, YouTUBE, Netflix and many others have created  these algorithms to decide for you what you will like, based on certain criteria.

Why is this important? Creativity largely depends on the assimilation of new and old ideas and influences, therefore it is not hard to speculate that only being exposed to what you already know and like can at the least affect your creativity in a negative way and at worst shrink your (online) world to a world of one.
What’s the Butterfly Effect?

The problem being, that you will hardly ever be exposed to anything new, you will only see things you already like and watch things you already agree with. Like the censorship boards of old the new gatekeepers to information are not old men in grey suits, they are in personalised algorithms.

For example, once the gatekeeper has decided that you buy and like expensive stuff online, she will not show you cheap stuff. Once she has decided that you like vacationing more than politics, she will show you, when you search for Syria, great spots to eat rather than the political unrest.

The Pioneers and Global Hotspots

Eli Pariser in his ted talk and book, Beware the Filter  bubble, was one of the first to point out the dangers of online filters, see  The Filter Bubble for the latest info. Also check out the new site Upworthy trying to counter the effect of the filter bubbles we are caught in.

Since the internet is everywhere, algorithm gatekeepers have no boundaries, so turn off the customisation settings for a while and see what you find.

By: Pierre Du Plessis

About Pierre

Pierre is a communicator, a dreamer and a troublemaker. He loves how we are all connected in more astounding ways and more than we ever thought.
He is completely obsessed with life in contemporary culture and he wallows in new ideas and marvels at how they can restore and re – create our world.

Image credit: Gallo Images/ Getty Images

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