The amount of information is seemingly endless on the internet. We’ve created mass amounts of connections upon connections where people can collaborate, exchange, debate, share, and consume as much as they desire. It’s an amazing time that we live in. For me, it is quite difficult to image what it was like to grow up in a world where such connections were limited, where it would take days if not weeks before my letter to someone far away were received and even longer before I could get a reply. Now, everything is at our fingertips.
The internet is a well spring. However, we live in a society that is highly capitalistic, and this effects even how we use the internet. Marketer’s are constantly begging for our attention, trying to advertise to us this and that, and trying their hardest to make it interesting. With the internet, this has become a much easier task since now websites are constantly collecting information on us that can now specifically target your interest based on your browsing habits. Have you ever searched up the sweater you wanted on Amazon, only to find that same sweater showing up again and again on the corner of your eyes on other web pages like Facebook? You might have even finally given in and bought it because it was so tempting. Honestly, its genius. But how does it help us explore such a wealth of information as the internet? We might find ourselves searching for a topic, only to have the search engine suggest sources to our already preconceived notions due to our browsing history. We get locked into our own little bubble, “curated” for us. McChesney points out this very fact, saying:
“Cyberspace is becoming less a frontier where citizens are like explorers on a glorious adventure than a cul-de-sac where advertising driven cues keep people in their little individualized bubble, making it unlikely for serendipity to occur.” (McChesney, 2013 p. 76)
In order for us to be able to explore the internet, a lot must change. For one, this method of curating our own little bubbles. The internet should be a place where serendipity happens and happens frequently. We should be able to look for something, and find something completely unexpected yet beneficial. Jason Silva, creator of Shots of Awe, has a very positive spin on this. Although I do not always agree with Jason because sometimes he is a bit overly optimistic about technology and its use today, I love listening to him because of that same reason. Jason gives us an inspiring look at what technology could be if we could do it right, without manipulative and controlling corporations and commercial media.
In this video, Jason Silva explores the idea of using algorithms that would take advantage of Big Data, and essentially create a semantic web that would be able to contextualize and take us out of our bubbles to find things that we might not have exactly been looking for but happens to be exactly what we needed. This would rid us of the “cul-de-sac” the internet likes to put us in today.
I’m not very sure when or how we will achieve this, but the idea is amazing. It would make the way we browse the web today seem primitive and useless. However, it still seems essential that for this kind of technology to work, our bread crumbs and foot prints on the web must still be collected and analyzed, which would not solve our discomforts with privacy. So far, it seems that it’s a give and take. If we want technology to improve past its current threshold, privacy must be sacrificed. That is, until someone can come up with a way to do this in a less invasive way.
McChesney, R. (2013). How can the political economy of communication help us understand the internet? In Digital disconnect: How capitalism is turning the Internet against democracy. The New Press.