Praise for Pariser

On the cover of The Filter Bubble: “Well-timed…a powerful indictment.” -The Wall Street Journal and “Vital.”-Time.com, not to mention, a New York Times Best Seller. I find it mildly interesting that these (and other) reviews come from sources that are so very much at the mercy of what Pariser brings to light, and still to learn about the ways our world is being transformed by the Internet—“Increasingly, it will be the place where we live our lives” (243)—we must read books. I know this is hardly the point, however.

One part of this week’s reading that particularly struck me was this quote by David Gelernter about the importance of educating oneself about our history and relationship with technology.

“‘When you do something in the public sphere […] it behooves you to know something about what the public sphere is like. How did this country get this way? What was the history of the relationship between technology and the public? What’s the history of political exchange?’” (173).

He emphasizes the fact that it is worrisome to have uneducated people in charge of public policy.

We certainly live in an interesting time. Most of us still remember what it was like before cell phones. This class, thus far, has been a reminder to me that it would behoove me to at least feign a greater interest in the online world, in hopes that I might eventually come around and embrace it fully. Or, at least, develop an educated opinion as to why I’m so turned off by it.

“Most of us are pretty mouselike in our information habits” (223).

Online privacy is something I keep in a small pot of worry on the back-burner. This summer, for instance, I received a letter in the mail from a school in Washington—through which I had taken a class online two years prior—saying that they were sorry, but their system had been recently hacked. So…I wondered, and still wonder, does that mean my SSN is on the loose? They offered me a free year of fraud protection, but I was skeptical.

If I can help it, I don’t buy things online. I hate the fact that I use a credit card as much as I do, knowing that I’m being tracked, that I can be found this way. I even hate that to print out assignments for school I email the documents to myself (Gmail), and login using a computer on campus (going through the two-step verification process every time) to take care of that business. There is no way a Google verification code is protecting me. Or is it? It’s really hard to know. Impossible probably. I should just buy a printer, I guess.

I am interested to learn more about how other countries are dealing with the negative consequences of personalization, and what it takes to create a strong, transparent code of ethics that everyday people, businesses, and hackers alike are committed to. Sounds like a pipedream to me, but at least we are (I am) waking up to the cold hard facts of our environment and behaviors.

“Like goldfish that grow only large enough for the tank they’re in, we’re contextual beings: how we behave is dictated in part by the shape of our environments” (174).