What I Read This Week – 9/27/12 – 10/3/12

3 Oct

Two books. Yeah. So one was for school, but still. I’m giving myself a round of applause.

The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web is Changing What We Read and How We Think by Eli Pariser

When I posted that list of the ten best nonfiction books for fiction lovers, I got a TON of great book recommendations in the comments. This was one of those recommended books that made it on to the “To Be Read” list. And when the book showed up on a list of options for book presentations in one of my courses…? Done and done.

Pariser argues that what we see is a filtered internet, thanks to personalized search results put forth by Google, friend filtering on Facebook, shopping suggestions by Amazon, and even the amazing Netflix Instant filters. Why should we care? All these things are making the internet quicker and easier to use. Who would really want to sort through 15 pages of porn results when you are searching “Girl Playhouse” on Google when trying to build a playhouse for your daughter. No one. That’s who. Or really pervy old men.

So what is the downside? We become the perfect target for advertisers, as we can be tracked as we go from website to website. Luckily, so far, the big data collectors (Google, I’m looking at you. They must know my whole life with my gmail/google search/google maps habits!) have been very good about using our data in fairly responsible ways, but they could easily change that. Many companies’ terms of use statements are written in dense, confusing ways…and you totally read all of those anyway, right? Some will allow them to change how they share your data retroactively, so you could all of a sudden have a bunch of personal data become public. GAHHH

And in a less obvious way, we are becoming less interesting, less smart and less creative. We are ending up in an echo chamber based on our personal interests. Instead of being exposed to news articles about tough problems, we end up with a diet of candy news articles about the Kardashians. Instead of the internet being an open, global community, we are getting put into little niches with people who are pretty similar to us. Creativity, which comes from different, unrelated ideas bouncing off each other, is damaged as we constantly preach to the choir.

So, what do we do? Pariser asks us to remember that our data is owned by us, until we give it up. He asks to think about putting in place stricter laws governing data sharing, as the EU already has. And just keep an eye on these companies. Filters are amazing tools, but don’t let them take over!

Believe me. You start seeing filters EVERYWHERE after reading this book. Highly, highly recommended. Read it now, as I’m sure it’ll be out of date in about six months. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the book, as I now have to write a paper based on the presentation I gave about it. Filllllllllters. All the tiiiiiiiime.

Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading edited by Lizzie Skurnick

If I had been born ten years earlier, this collection of essays about YA lit would have been perfect. Unfortunately, I was only familiar with about a third of the novels, so a lot of it was a bit over my head. The essays about the books I have read were pretty great though. I’m ready to re-read Madeleine L’Engle and Judy Blume. And Beverly Cleary has teen novels that I can get delivered to my Kindle from the Austin Public Library? YESSSSSS.

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One Response to “What I Read This Week – 9/27/12 – 10/3/12”

  1. Laura Rowsell (@LauraRowsell) October 3, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    I am totally interested by The Filter Bubble, because (and this is fairly random) I was thinking about the upcoming US election and going ‘I must make everyone vote Democrat!’ and then I thought ‘wait, do I even know anyone, internetly, who expresses any Republican-esque views AT ALL?’ and the answer was, of course, no. Because obviously I’ve just found lots of people who like the things I like and like the things I do!

    It’s like… The internet has the potential to connect anyone to anyone, but because of how we are, we’re bound to gravitate towards people who are like us. Which is fine, but then how are we going to understand people who think differently if we don’t ever communicate with them?

    Sorry for the rant! It’s just… something I’ve been thinking about. Totally reading that book 🙂

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