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The Web's "Algorithmic Editors"

Posted by Josh Rothman  June 24, 2011 09:55 PM

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In this powerful, succinct TED Talk, Eli Pariser -- the former Executive Director of MoveOn.org -- explains how automated, "algorithmic editors" built into Google, Facebook, and other sites surreptitiously tailor what you see on the web. There is no "objective" internet: The web, Pariser explains, looks different to each of us, and is subtly personalized to show us what we want to see.

“The best editing," he says, "gives us Justin Beiber and a little bit of Afghanistan; it gives us some information vegetables, it gives us some information dessert.” Algorithmic editors, on the other hand, show us only what pandering computer programs, without the "embedded ethics" of human editors, imagine that we'll enjoy. They prevent us from being our best selves.

Pariser's book, The Filter Bubble, was reviewed in the Globe last week. On his website, Pariser offers "10 Ways to Pop Your Filter Bubble."

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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