The Dangers of Search Algorithms as Curators of the World: Eli Pariser TED Talk

Check out this fascinating TED talk by Eli Pariser that I discovered last evening through my friend and wise colleague Heather Braum.  Here’s the abstract of this nine minute talk:

As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.

These hidden “filters” of information are exactly why people of all ages need to understand how different search algorithms work in different information environments. This TED talk exemplifies why merely providing students access to the Internet is not enough and why information literacy skills matter more than ever in today’s world. When librarians embed themselves in learning spaces to facilitate authentic information seeking tasks in real-world, real problem-solving contexts,we can help people learn how to discover and thoughtfully evaluate a diverse range of information sources.

3 comments

  1. Thank you for pointing out the consequences of following a narrow spectrum of sources. Lewis Lapham made the similar points years ago in a prescient Harper’s essay . His concern was television, but his remarks are as salient for other means of communication. We often end up reinforcing our assumptions rather than broadening our knowledge.

  2. Really powerful stuff; great talk. I think it’s interesting how obsessed we’ve become over the notion of “relevance” that we sometimes forget its shortcomings. The idea that algorithms have no embedded ethics to show us opposing points of view has some worrisome potential effects on society.

    I also agree that these algorithms should be more transparent and provide clearer options for us to control what gets through our “filters” and what doesn’t. Finally, I really liked the “information vegetables and information dessert” bit!

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