Pioneering online organizer Eli Pariser is the author of “The Filter Bubble,” about how personalized search might be narrowing our worldview.
As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.
Why you should listen
Shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks, Eli Pariser created a website calling for a multilateral approach to fighting terrorism. In the following weeks, over half a million people from 192 countries signed on, and Pariser rather unexpectedly became an online organizer. The website merged with MoveOn.org in November 2001, and Pariser — then 20 years old — joined the group to direct its foreign policy campaigns. He led what the New York Times Magazine called the “mainstream arm of the peace movement” — tripling MoveOn’s member base and demonstrating how large numbers of small donations could be mobilized through online engagement.
In 2004, Pariser became executive director of MoveOn. Under his leadership, MoveOn.org Political Action has grown to 5 million members and raised over $120 million from millions of small donors to support advocacy campaigns and political candidates. Pariser focused MoveOn on online-to-offline organizing, developing phone-banking tools and precinct programs in 2004 and 2006 that laid the groundwork for Barack Obama’s extraordinary web-powered campaign. In 2008, Pariser transitioned the Executive Director role at MoveOn to Justin Ruben and became President of MoveOn’s board; he’s now a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.
His book The Filter Bubble is set for release May 12, 2011. In it, he asks how modern search tools — the filter by which many of see the wider world — are getting better and better and screening the wider world from us, by returning only the search results it “thinks” we want to see.
What others say
“When confronted with a list of results from Google, the average user (including myself until I read this article) tends to assume that the list is exhaustive. Not knowing that it isn’t … is equivalent to not having a choice. Depending on the quality of the search results, it can be said that I am being fed junk — because I don’t know I have other choices that Google filtered out.” — Aubrey Pek, commenting on Kim Zetter’s “Junk Food Algorithms”: http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/03/eli-pariser-at-ted
Stay Funky my Friends,