This is a Jon Katz piece on the nature of collaborative filtering. This
might be constrasted to The Cluetrain Manifesto http://www.cluetrain.net/
<http://www.cluetrain.net/> Here's a quote from slashdot:
"In republic.com, University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein argues
that through its filtering and moderating systems, the Internet may be
Balkanizing speech and thought, and thus weakening democracy, by eliminating
the public spaces that traditionally offered common ground. Sunstein asserts
that the age of mass media is ending, that radically de-centralized and
intensely individualistic forms of information are not only emerging but
becoming dominant. But he believes that certain elements remain essential
for a well-functioning system of free expression, and that filtering and
moderation software may endanger them.
People living in democracies, Sunstein maintains, should be exposed to ideas
they might not have chosen themselves. Unplanned, spontaneous, unanticipated
encounters are central, though they "often involve topics and points of view
that people have not sought out and perhaps find quite irritating." They are
important, nonetheless, he says, partly because they protect against
fragmentation and extremism, a predictable outcome when like-minded people
communicate only with one another."
Sunstein also cites the impact of collaborative filtering programs like
those used by Amazon and other sites which collect information on past use
and preferences, and allow people to pre-select from a menu of subjects and
books they are likely to like or agree with. Clearly this is a customer
service, but it's also a way of filtering out ideas and subjects people
don't want to hear. Browsers in a store are nearly guaranteed to come across
unanticipated or new ideas. The users of collaborative filtering systems
will see far fewer.
Sunstein believes that citizens should have a range of common experiences.
Without them, any heterogeneous society will have a much tougher time
addressing social problems. People may even find it hard to understand one
another. "Common experiences, emphatically including the common experiences
made possible by the media, provide a form of social glue," he notes."
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