The Filter Bubble Rebooted is the first episode of Subliminal Insights; a Subliminal Video Series dedicated to making your world a little less subliminal and a little more conscious.
Most people don’t realize that Subliminal is a kaleidoscopic term with a remarkable range. This is even truer now that that the digital age has introduced new forms of subliminal media.
Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the good stuff here, subliminal software or personal development technology. I’m talking about the new and improved forms of subliminal manipulation, the subliminal influences that are invisibly altering our mind and perceptions on an unprecedented scale.
The Filter Bubble may not appear to be subliminal at first glance, but it is. It’s subliminal because of three main factors:
- its high level of complexity
- its covert implementation
- the neuromarketing1 tactics used to hype it up
You wouldn’t notice the filter bubble unless it’s pointed out and even then it’s hard to pin down.
If not for the outstanding work of Eli Pariser, the chair of MoveOn.org and co-founder of Upworthy.com, the Filter Bubble would have remained a nameless phantom. He coined the term back in 2011 in his investigative expose; The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You.Continue Reading
Filter Bubbled Decisions & Influence
“Ultimately, the filter bubble can affect your ability to choose how you want to live… When you enter a filter bubble, you’re letting the companies that construct it choose which options you’re aware of.
You may think you’re the captain of your own destiny, but personalization can lead you down a road to a kind of informational determinism in which what you’ve clicked on in the past determines what you see next—a Web history you’re doomed to repeat. You can get stuck in a static, ever narrowing version of yourself—an endless you-loop.”3
Your decisions are the building blocks of your future. They determine the kind of life you’ll live and influence the lives of your children and loved ones. Every decision you make paves the path of your destiny.
By limiting your exposure to a wide range of information, the filter bubble narrows your options and inhibits your ability to make the best decisions, well-informed decisions.
The scary thing is that this manufactured myopia affects everyone, including those of us in positions of power, positions that have influence over the lives of others and the structure of social order. The decision of judges, of legislators and even prime ministers and presidents, are now being made inside of a Filter Bubble.Continue Reading
Pariser opened the door and put the Filter Bubble into a well-defined context, but it’s a vast issue, and many questions remain unanswered. No one book could be expected to cover it in the full depth and detail that it demands.
It involves a staggering array of interlinked sciences. The Filter Bubble stands at the nexus between computer science and the sciences of the mind, between humanity and the machine.
You see, its tentacles stretch through an elaborate maze of convoluted, complex and critically important areas. A virtual labyrinth of perplexing subjects.
My aim is not to merely rehash the material covered by Pariser in his book, The Filter Bubble, but to build on it and reinvigorate research, discussion and the call for greater transparency. Right now, the Filter Bubble is more relevant than ever because we’re being hit by another major wave of Filer Bubble’isation.
No matter what you call it, ‘Cloud Computing,’ the ‘Age of Context’ or the ‘Internet of Things,’ the next wave of hyper-personalization is upon us.
The Filter Bubble Band Subliminal Songs of the Cyber-Sirens
Google and Facebook are the stars of the Filter Bubble show. While Facebook has recently shown a modicum of responsiveness to widespread privacy concerns and transparency, Google has battened down the hatches and renewed its assault.
Even so, the rush towards an ever greater personalization of the web is being driven by a whole host of digital corporations and government agencies. Jaron Lanier identifies this invisible league of virtual corpor’nations as Siren Servers.
“Siren Servers gather data from the network, often without having to pay for it. The data is analyzed using the most powerful available computers, run by the very best available technical people. The results of the analysis are kept secret, but are used to manipulate the rest of the world to advantage”.6
I prefer to call them Cyber-Sirens, but the spirit of the term remains the same as Lanier intended. You may recall that the Sirens are the spell-binding women mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. It was the Songs of the Sirens that lured sailors to their death, to crash their ships upon craggy shores of the Cyrenian shallows.
The Sirens were apparently much more than simply alluring women. They fascinated beyond measure, compelling the weather-worn sailors of legends yarn to forgo their senses and meet their doom.
Let’s face it, technology is awesome. It’s the 21st century form of magic. Dazzled by technology with evangelists chanting their creed, who wouldn’t be compelled by the song of the Cyber-Sirens?Continue Reading
The Privacy Trade Charade
“The totality of societal observation over the individual is the defining antithesis of freedom, even when that observation is gained through hidden and subtle persuasion…
We have been overwhelmed with the illusion that surveillance and freedom are compatible. That is because the culture of the Internet, driven by its core economic model, has succeeded in equating privacy with anonymity…
Even now in the early phase of mapping our minds, this access to our thoughts already exceeds the powers of the most invasive Big Brother government that Orwell imagined.
At the command of Internet-driven signals, people everywhere in the world have been willing to abandon the concerns and safeguards of privacy, developed painstakingly throughout human history, for the convenience of plucking that perfect item off a virtual shelf and paying for it without looking up from their devices.” 9
Have you noticed the coy way that Silicon Valley appropriates words that sound good and then twists the meaning? Take personalization for instance. Who doesn’t like personal service? It sounds great, but what Google means by personalization isn’t like having personalized service.
Google is notorious for their rude ‘take it or leave attitude’ and the glaring lack of customer service or support. So, personalization is simply used as a pleasant-sounding euphemism, a palatable mask for a Social Profiling feedback loop!
Privacy takes on a completely different shade of meaning in the digital landscape. Privacy isn’t just one of those times that you don’t have to worry about someone barging in on you. It is really about personal space and the freedom to have a moment to yourself, a moment to contemplate without interruption or intrusion?
Ultimately, the surveillance of activities, your thoughts, and desires is what feeds the Filter Bubble Money Machine. Whenever you access the internet, use your phone, credit cards, take a walk or meet up with friends, you’re being watched, recorded and studied.
How would you feel if you lived in a glass box on Madison Avenue with a team of shrinks assigned to study and second guess your every move? What people don’t realize is that when you’re in cyber-space you are virtually living in a glass cage.
A league of highly trained specialists; computer scientists, statisticians, social scientists, neuromarketers, and hackers are plugged into the global network of sensors. They use sophisticated software programs and apps to scrutinize and monetize you, your life.Continue Reading
Contextual Personalization and Privacy
The bubble blowing is being hyped up and trumpeted as a sort of ‘computer knows best’, an uppity concierge, a personal assistant that spies on everything that you do.
Ok, that’s not exactly how it’s being billed. The idea is that contextually personalized filters will help you navigate the ‘internet of things’, the next big wave in the digital age! In some areas, like health care, transportation, and entertainment, contextual filters could be a huge advantage. Yet, without transparency, optional choices and safeguards they are dangerous and prone to abuse
The evangelist of what’s being called the Age of Context presume that we are willing to make a trade-off between privacy and convenience, to trade our privacy for personalization, for personalized services. The built-in assumption is that the majority of us users want this kind of service and are willing to make the trade.
An unbiased insider take on privacy suggests that the general consensus is that: “Privacy for ordinary people can be forfeited in the near term because it will become moot anyway.” 16
Normally when you make a trade, you’ve got some idea of the value of what you’re trading, as well as, some control over or input regarding the terms. Privacy Policies negate any sense of fair trade. They appear to be written to frustrate any attempt to be read or understood.Continue Reading
The Filter Bubble Wrap Up
The Filter Bubble isn’t a popular topic. We have enough unpleasantries to think about. Even so, ignoring the Filter Bubble wont make it go away. The more that you know about how the Cyber Servers operate, the more difficult it will be for them to take advantage of you.
It might seem like we have covered the Filter Bubble in great depth and detail, but we’ve barely scratched the surface. There is so much more to it than meets the eye.
References and Resources
1) Neuromarketing uses in-depth cognitive psychology, social psychology and the science of persuasion to manipulate our desires and influences our decisions. In essence and function neuromarketing is a re-branded form of subliminal marketing.
2) Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think, Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012), 32
3) Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think, Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012), 57
4) Trip Gabriel, Court Decisions on Voting Rules Sow Confusion in State Races, The New York Times (Oct. 7, 2014)
5) Craig Timberg, Could Google tilt a close election?, The Washington Post (March 29, 2013)
6) Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future, Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (March 4, 2014), 131
7) Rebecca MacKinnon, Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom, Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (April 23, 2013), 57
8) Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future, Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (March 4, 2014), 131
9) Robert Scheer, They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy, Nation Books; Feb. 24, 2015, 10-13
10) Patrick Tucker, The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move?, Current; March 6, 2014, 14
11) Evgeny Morozov, Who pays for us to browse the web? Be wary of Google’s latest answer, The Guardian (Nov. 29, 2014)
12) Steven Nelson, Schmidt: Google Now Best Way to Evade NSA, U.S.News (Dec. 12, 2014)
13) Julian Assange, When Google Met WikiLeaks, OR Books; Sept. 18, 2014, 37-41
14) Astra Taylor, Schmidt: Google Now Best Way to Evade NSA, The Guardian (June 16, 2014)
15) Patrick Tucker, The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move?, Current; March 6, 2014, 70
16) Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future, Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (March 4, 2014), 50
17) Alexix C. Madrigal, Reading the Privacy Policies You Encounter in a Year Would Take 76 Work Days, The Atlantic (Mar. 1, 2012)