Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The problems with personalized search

     Internet giants like Google and Facebook have been using the information we provide to tailor our search for a long time and it will come as a surprise to few of us. In many cases, this can be a good thing since we get information that is usually tailored to our own unique interests. The problem, however, is that this also means that we are getting an increasingly narrow view of the world and the results are not always the most relevant and objective. 

     In the first video, a TED talk,  Eli Pariser of highlights how personally tailored results are giving us an unhealthy diet of information by not balancing the information we are interested in with other information which is relevant, important, uncomfortable, challenging and which offers different points of view. Instead, we end up in a filter bubble where computer algorithms filter the information we get based on the way we search and share. 

     The second video is from a recent episode of This Week in Tech on Twit.Tv. In the episode, guest Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land  demonstrates how Google's new social search is skewing results by giving preference to content shared on Google Plus and YouTube, raising ethical questions about the role of Google as a search engine designed to give the best search results with the most relevant content. 

     In the context of education, this raises concerns that students seeking information will no longer get the best results for what they are looking for but instead results which are connected to their own social networks and interests. Rather than get exposure to a variety of information from a range of sources, they will  find themselves locked into then filter bubble where their view of the world is increasingly narrowed.