Are Algorithms The New Gatekeepers Of Knowledge?

Tools which help us manage information overload may do us harm in the long term.

The information overload debate spawns many a tired argument about our ability to cope with our digitally saturated lives but two pertinent points remain in spite of the hyperbole.

In the words of Bowker & Star (Sorting Things Out: Classification & It’s Consequences);

“when faced with too many alternatives and too much information (people) satisfice.”

The second important point, is that nowadays the Internet content which we happen across is increasingly responsive to the sorts of content which we have previously searched for. In short, we are getting more of the same rather than more of what we need.

In his recent TED Talk Eli Pariser contends that:

We need the internet to introduce us to new ideas and different perspectives… and this cannot happen when the┬áInvisible algorithmic editing of the web…moves us to a world where the Internet shows us what it thinks we need to see, but not what we should see

Pariser’s arguments are bold if perhaps a touch reductionist in places, but he begs an important question: should internet giants like Google and Facebook have a civic sense of duty to inform us in a diverse manner?

Eli Pariser

[via Mashable]

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