The Information bubble

 The information bubble or filter bubble argument by Eli Peaiser’s TED presentation, is an idea that now more and more we are creating our own bubbles of information through a complicated algorithmic tailors who personalize information that we are presented by analyzing out previous search results, purchases, and our general choices on the Internet. The drawback of such situation is that we lose the diversity of information that we’re getting and our own privacy. The idea that the algorithm knows every move that will make on the Internet is a little bit scary and raises privacy concerns.  Stray however presents five possible ways of going out of “information bubble” or managing it:

1. Stop speculating and start looking: the information is and was always there but we created bubbles even before the Internet era.

2. Bring curation into journalism: in the declining power of editors in the media with the rise of Internet the author suggests to create curators. We could delegate the work of filtering masses of information to them, so they create a balanced view for us.

3. Build better filtering algorithms: the algorithm filters are not going anywhere so we might as well make them better. Personalizing information filter instead of going with default will give us enough access to what we want instead of giving this choice to someone else.

4. Going just to the map. Instead of just presenting the end results of a particular filter algorithm, we could get how the algorithm got to this particular result with choice-link visualization.

5.  Figure out what we really want: figuring out what we really want instead of blaming the filters for information bubbles could be a solution because informational isolation is caused by us not by the filters or lack of information we choose information that we get.

The solution that I use to help me prevent information bubble on particular website or issue is putting the Internet browser such as Safari on “private browsing” or Chrome on “incognito window”. That prevents cookies or any other information to be used in your future choices and preferences. Another possible solution that might be interesting to create, especially regarding information newsfeeds, that to make it possible to get other peoples algorithmic filters to see the web through their bubble. Such people can be Obama or Romney or any other celebrity that you “trust”(Kim Kardashian).

Also I specifically like point number two about creating curators for our information needs. This also corresponds with Shirky’s idea from “Here comes everybody” about the mass amateurization of information. Shirky points out in one of his chapters that before mass Internet use, the information was edited before it was published, however with decreased or no cost of publishing the information is first published and then filtered. In that situation he suggests that the only way to counter react to the overflow of irrelevancy is to have it filtered by an editor(curator).

The modern tendencies of Internet companies are aimed at even more precise personalization of searches (example being the new search algorithm called Hummingbird recently announced by Google). The problem of filtered information, and the way we get search results is not evident to many.  How many people are not even trying to resist or even care if they are in one! The question remains if there is more harm or gain? The only things that I can add is that it is not practical to try and get rid of it instead its best is to improve it.

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While the arguments against the US Health Reform Act, “Obama care,” span far beyond the most recent infamous website issues, I find the entire situation to be a fascinating example of the convergence of the power of social media, simple web functionality, and necessary leadership required to execute such an ambitious endeavor. While I do not follow the latest web technology, I find it difficult to believe that the US Government would not have a website capable of serving more than 50,000 people at one time. That should have been a consideration made many months prior to the idea of  hosting the entire program through a website.

I spoke with a few people of very differing opinions and they had interesting observations and considerations about this topic.

The views of a 21 year old 4 year college senior  – “I’ve never had health care. I’m not that familiar with Obama care. I know that healthcare should be available to everyone. It should be something I’m available to get. I am afraid to fall and get hurt, and not have any support. I have looked at the homepage of Obama care, and there were many requirements that intimated me, such as (Name, address, employment, and multiple phone numbers). And it appears to be a “lottery” – I may not even be guaranteed. I may not be very knowledgeable about it, but it isn’t something that I’m jumping into or investing in at this time.”

The views of a 57 year old, woman, unemployed within the past 5 days – “It’s a shame, and I would have never thought, that it would come to the point that people have to go online and register for healthcare – people like me. I lived off my husband’s healthcare for 30 years and then he lost his job. So I’ve been supporting him for the past 2 years, and I recently learned that I’ll be losing my job in 30 days. The difficulties that an individual has to go through, in order to receive basic healthcare needs, and even advanced needs into their later years is something that one should expect to receive. Too many website and operational questions are unanswered surrounding Obama care; however, I will need to complete the process within the next 30 days in order to maintain the status of healthcare that I have received for the past 30 years.”

Having interviewed these women, and studied the commentary among social and political leaders regarding Obama care, the views expressed above relate well to the key issues that concern those that are debating this issue in Washington.

In my opinion, this situation has nothing to do with age, race, color, religion, or social status. It is centered around the issues of negative network effects, cyber security “Big Data” trappings, lack of leadership knowledge/overestimation of technological ability, and the federalization of healthcare which is a highly personal set of choices.

1.   Negative Network Effects – As Obama care expands to the masses and an increasing number of Americans are able to apply and subscribe for healthcare, that has placed an increasing stress on physicians who actually provide the service. So, if more people are expected to join a system, and pay less – the natural extension is that physicians will leave (impacting scale economies). That breaks down the critical market dynamic of the Obama care system. If there are less physicians to market their services. Or, if physicians choose to market less services than they normally would, based on financial margins – then the patients loose – the market is inefficient.

2.      Cyber Security – The trappings of “Big Data” – As Obama care expands, one important requirement is to verify an enrollee’s income and immigration status. As more and more Americans continue to store their home addresses, SS #, W-2 information, phone #’s, family members and employment status, the amount of data available becomes, presumably, less secure. That is a concern.  There may be backdoors that the government is not even aware of.

3.    Lack of leadership knowledge/overestimation of technical ability – Looking at the data from 50 thousand feet, it appears that everyone just expected the system to “work.” And when it didn’t work, then people immediately turned to technical experts to figure it out. But, my criticism is that this question is a critical question that should have been deeply understood and investigated from security and executional standpoint.  This is where my criticism of Sebelius

4.     Healthcare is a highly personal set of choices – In the recent weeks, it is apparent that there will be a strong debate among issues of personal issues for men and women. Birth control, abortion, castration, etc. I am sure that we have not exhausted the issues that will arise when asked to socialize healthcare in a society that has been raised to be independent thinkers and do-ers. This will continue to be an issue, but the state of MA has made concessions and found ways to keep the broader movement moving while keeping the views of a specific set of concerned people appeased and acknowledged with their goals.

As I wrap, I want to be clear that I don’t fall down on this issue from a political standpoint, but I absolutely find it to be a crossroads of how America will choose to govern itself and, how much power we will allow our president to execute, and how important the internet/web will be in the future management of our government. I’m also interested in the leadership question involved here. From Obama to Sebelius, both failed. Although the idea may have been/be great – if the execution failed then, the objective may be lost, for many years to come.



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