[unrev-II] On Collaborative Filtering

From: Jack Park (jackpark@verticalnet.com)
Date: Tue Mar 27 2001 - 12:04:09 PST

  • Next message: Bernard Vatant: "Re: [unrev-II] A definition of non-interoperabilty"

    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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