I apologize in advance for this post reads a little bit like a ‘rant on ‘the internet’. It’s also a little more ‘tech-talk’ than usual on Crinid. Proceed with caution, you’ve been warned
The internet is a place of niches. Millions of ‘me’ niches exist on blogs, social networks. Personalized search, personalized ads, personalized content, all becoming part of our ‘digital DNA’. And it’s great, right? We get more of what we want now that our profile is slowly becoming our niche?
No more annoying spam and other advertisements, just ‘infomercials’ – advertisements I’d want to see because they are relevant to my interests. And of course, therefor is more likely to make me click/buy/tell someone else about it. It’s this ‘noble’ thought that ignited the need for our data to be collected, stored and used to build our profile, and I’m not just talking about our Facebook account.
For example, last week I spend some time listening to Jose Gonzalez on YouTube. I made a playlist and added a number of songs to my favorites. The day after I noticed nearly every ad on my screen all day was related to guitars, Spanish artists and some other stuff I could easily trace back to the smooth sounds of Mr. Gonzalez.
Of course, targeted ads for guitars are kind of lost on me at the moment, but some day it will figure it out.
Getting it right
And we know the Google’s, Microsofts and Facebooks of the future will figure it out. ‘They’ just need a little more data, and be a little more semantic (human) in order to get right. Personal profiles get stronger, and more persistent throughout the internet (my Google account gathers information from every website with Google Ads now).
On the other hand websites and applications get smarter using this information (FaceBook Connect links my profile to numerous websites simply by logging in to comment or use the service). Portals like Netvibes, iGoogle and MyAlltop lets you create pages that lists just the news you want, but how long will it take until we don’t have to tell them what we need? The web knows what we want now, what our interests are, and will feed us the information that fits our profile, our pattern, and in doing so we start to create ‘cocoons of me’.
But wait, the web was meant to connect was it not? Reach out, talk to people, share thoughts, have discussions…
The problem is the way social networks work right now. They facilitate me to find people ‘like me’. To a vast majority this is what social networking is all about. Everyone openly lists their interests, in order to find or get found by others who share these interests. Websites like LinkedIn specifically search for people like ‘me’ and recommends them as my friends. We rarely look for things that are ‘not-like-me’. The result is our networks become more and more ‘like me’.
This in turn affects the information and domains we have access to again. Even though the amount of information is growing, it becomes more necessary and more easy to filter this information.
In our effort to counter this infamous ‘information overload’ we employ ‘social filters’ in mass. Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, del.icio.us, personal blogs and even plain old email – our new sources of information are heavily dependent on our networks. And as internet is undoubtedly the most dominant source of information in the 21st century, this will have an impact on us as ‘information processing organisms’ or ‘thinkers’.
In fact, I think this is where we might eventually be crossing the line between getting what we want, and losing what we need. Things like diversity, new domains, different interests, foreign patterns and opposed perspectives. Creativity thrives from the inspiration we get from domains that are ‘not like me’, finding things that don’t fit our patterns and expectations, people that are ‘not like me’. And the internet is getting increasingly poor at providing me with information that’s ‘not like me‘.
What are your thoughts? Will the increasing control we have over information we’re exposed to limit our ability to be creative, or will the new connectivity on the web give us access to more domains, and improve Creative Thinking?