We could see it coming. Sort of.
I wrote a post titled myChannel back in 2005, a time without smartphones, Facebook, Twitter and news aggregators like Flipboard. YouTube was 17 days off launching. Reviewing the tech landscape I concluded:
... mass personalisation has become a ‘qualifying’ rather than ‘winning’ criteria. The advantages to the user include choice (of the most apt personalisation), collation, and access in their own time and filtering. ...The user, the recipient of news and information, the listener, the viewer, the inter-actor, has been empowered to set the schedule. It’s what they want, when they want it and how they want it. They have one channel ... and they own it. It is myChannel.
Seems I got some part right. Two thirds of Facebook users and 59% of Twitter users in the US get their personalised news from the social network. Facebook counts a quarter of the world's population as users.
Seems I got some part wrong, to our collective misery. My post referenced user choice of personalisation service, which is of course absent under monopoly conditions. And alarmingly, my assumption that the individual would own their own channel was way off target.
The Internet and the Web have been radically centralized in the intervening years. The network effect has left many abdicating their choice of media, exposure to ideas, facility to corroborate stories, and the opportunity to debate different points of view, to algorithms written by distant employees of centralised and centralising services whose commercial motivations do not necessarily extend to ensuring you get anything other than the instant gratification that your current viewpoint is spot on. You are right. They are wrong. Empathy be damned.
We've seen this with Brexit and during the US election this year.
Since 2011, the effect has become known as a filter bubble – automated information separation that isolates each of us in own cultural or ideological bubbles.
The hi:project intends to help sort out this mess by re-establishing each and everyone of us back in the driving seat of our own lives. I like this metaphor because driving entails responsibilities as well as rights.
Image source: By Jeff Kubina, BY-SA 2.0