prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Living Inside the Bubble

Posted by prof e on March 2, 2016

I’ve posted about the “Filter Bubble” and mentioned it in another post, but a new trend is emerging that takes the concept and makes it even more troubling.

First, let me take a minute to review the idea behind the filter bubble. According to Eli Pariser’s Ted Talk, the filter bubble is a dangerous and unintentional consequence of software algorithms that social media platforms use to customize our user experience. In an attempt to keep us online and engaged, social media platforms feed us the content stream that they believe is of greatest interest to us.

DrumpfinatorSounds good so far, right? But the problem is that by putting some things in and leaving others out our social media experience can begin to reflect and reinforce our personally held biases. Pretty soon we’re only seeing Facebook posts from people who agree with our political/social/religious positions. And while that may make us more comfortable it doesn’t do much to make us more aware of, and sensitive to, other points of view.

Now imagine for a moment a software hack that allows you to create your own filter bubble. Google’s Chrome browser allows users to download and install extensions that can do any number of things, including changing your browser to display certain words instead of other words.

This gained quite a bit of attention recently when John Oliver’s rant about Donald Trump went viral. With more than 13 million views in just a couple of days, the video makes reference to a claim that Donald Trump’s family name was originally Drumpf. That was all that some clever software programmer needed to create a Google Chrome extension that is designed to turn every mention of Trump into Drumpf! That’s right, the next time you search for Donald Trump, the results page will display results for Donald Drumpf. When your friends post about Trump on Facebook, your browser will automatically change it to Drumpf. Presto Chango, out with Trump and in with Drumpf!

ChoiceLanguageChromeExtensionsSounds like a great idea, right? But consider this. The Chrome extension website offers up some other “fixes” that are slightly less funny. Don’t like your news feed filled with comments about pro-life or pro-choice arguments. Just download the Chrome extension Choice Language or ProLife. Your webpage will no longer display the offending terms. Choice Language changes the words “Pro-Life” into “Anti-Choice”, while the Pro Life extension changes “Anti-Choice” or “Anti-Abortion” into “Pro-Life.” Simple as that you can browse the web and never encounter an offending phrase.

Ahhh, if life could be so simple. Imagine being able to rewrite the evening news or edit a popular film so that is more closely reflects your view of the world. Imagine the joy of never having to encounter an uncomfortable idea or thought. Imagine living in a bubble…a self-made filter bubble.




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