There was a great promise to the internet back in the day. It promised to be a tool to knowledge, and many companies promised to be a gateway to that knowledge, but not just any kind of knowledge, but pure, uncontaminated knowledge, trickling down from the universe right into our brains. There was a bit of mislead in all that we were expecting from the internet, because as it turns out there are mediators in between that knowledge and ourselves.
Had this been 2011 that previous statement would have been shocking. But in the year 2018 it reads like something so obvious it barely merits being commented upon. But The Filter Bubble’s author, Eli Pariser, does indeed go into a look not only as to how people are becoming encased inside of their own digital echo chambers, but how for a long time many of the tech companies thought that creating such a chamber was virtuous. The end was meant to be a program that knew what you wanted to search before you ever searched for it.
It’s almost as if the employees of Google and facebook never in their lives watched an episode of X-files, or encountered a person who wanted to believe despite all evidence to the contrary, or refused to believe in face of evidence bearing the truth.
But let’s bear in mind that this book actually was written in 2011. Considering I read this book (as I suspect so many others have) to feel less confused in the era of Trump, this book felt far too much like a book written too soon, which unfortunately meant that for my purposes, the book added far too little that pretty much everyone now-a-days does not already know. The ‘bubbling’ of the media consuming public is something of a topic du jour, along side the odious fake news that everyone has now turned into a finger pointing witch hunt/ moral panic. The book did however give me a lot of facts I did not previously have regarding the companies involved in this bubbling and what exactly it is that they are trying to do, and the book certainly is helpful in getting one to think somewhat critically about these issues. Online, I found more than a few reviews gripping about the author’s call to action at the end of the book. I don’t really understand this criticism, as one should always be taking calls to action with a massive grain a salt. One reads non fiction for the arguments, not for the conclusions.
The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think