They know what you did last summer

filterbubble Eli Parisel gives an eye-opening TED talk where he explains the concept of a “filter bubble”. It is our personal universe, where we are surrounded by the things we usually click on. It is a concept where we are served with what we usually would look for.  On one hand, it is a comfortable concept – the information gets filtered and we are provided with quick results according to our usual preferences. On the other hand, we are not aware of this process; therefore we don’t know what is taken away from us. This filtering done by internet sites prevents us from getting information about opposing opinions on the topic. This might sound like the classical “I want it because I can’t have it” case, and it might be, I don’t know. But the concept of these filter bubbles is quite shocking and can leave us living in one.

In my previous posts I have talked a lot about how we live at a time when there is enormous amount of information out there. I talked about all three selective processes, but I never realised that we actually live at a time when the selecting is done for us. And it is done according to what we have exposed ourselves to in the past. There is a danger to our online privacy, as we are never really aware to what extent internet gathers our data. As much as technology and innovation is meant to ease our lives, it is also creating scary effects on our personal space.

This summer, I read a book “The power of habit” by Charles Duhigg. It explained the importance of habits in our personal lives, advertisement and management. As well as that, he was explaining how companies know more about us than we can imagine. Duhigg tells us about Target company. They customize the special offer coupons sent to individuals according to their past purchases. The book talks about cases when companies are able to even predict how close the women are to labour to provide them with coupons on diapers and baby clothes immediately after the baby is born without them knowing. An extreme example talks about a case when Target figured out that a high-school girl was pregnant before her father did. (Extracts of the book can be found HERE)privacy_header

As much as we have to worry about our privacy being in danger, we also need to think about the consequences of these online data gatherings. It is easier than ever to become isolated from conflicting opinions. This brings back the importance of offline interactions and real conversations. No technology can isolate us from opposing opinions when engaged in a discussion with real people outside of the world of browsers and double-clicks.

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It is all about a good discussion

I am a fan of a good conversation.opinion2

I love to see how the discussion develops supporting both sides of an argument. As much as I love to observe a good discussion, I also like to participate. And a good discussion often has the power to shift my existing opinion or create a strong one if I did not before.

The beauty and the obstacle of discussion is the fact that people want themselves to be perceived favourably. This can cause two possible outcomes: either a participant can be too intimidated to speak up, or they are pressured to develop they argument into a strong one before saying it out loud. This is why it is good to sometimes be in an intimidating environment – that can make us push our boundaries and make the best of our abilities.

However, it takes a lot of courage to develop a strong argument, whereas it doesn’t take much to agree with the direction of the dominant position. This can result in “spiral of silence” where the minority opinions are silenced completely over the time. This can be caused also by participating in discussion with people that we think are a lot alike us. The individuals don’t want their reputation to suffer in eyes of those who they think of as similar to them.

In groups that are significantly different from me, I tend to agree less with their opinions; also I am more likely to speak up because of the lack of pressure to be perceived favourably. I am less likely to agree with what the others are saying and consistent to express my opinion to change theirs. The same way it takes less courage to develop an argument when in a group of people with similar views. For me this raised a question if it is better to communicate and discuss with people who are not similar to me, because of the bigger probability that I will speak up my mind. (?)

Good conversation is all about the opinion clashes and arguments behind those. There are many obstacles that stand in way of expressing one’s ideas. It highly depends on the environment, the group and the consistency of opinions. People tend to pick discussion groups with similar views. But the question is if that is the best way to provide a qualitative discussion. The comfort zone is not always the best place in life.