search engine passivity and information literacy

Finishing my second thought from yesterday regarding “the conversation around the algorithms used by search engines and companies tracking online use to facilitate less aggressive users of information on the internet,” there are two things that strike me about this discussion.

First complaining about Facebook algorithms that respond to your behavior and don’t expand your world is kind of an odd criticism. It assigns too much responsibility to something that is a mechanism that reflects your online behavior. So if you profess to want to have Facebook “friends” with whom you disagree (as Eli Pariser the author of the recent book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You does) but neglect to actually connect with them, the algorithm that puts them lower on your radar simply identifies the difference between what you profess and what you do.

And getting around such things is often a matter of using the options available. On Facebook I have a list that overrides what Facebook wants to put on my list and will simply show me recent posts and links that people in the Jenkins family have put up. Twitter doesn’t use that kind of algorithm but I have a similar lists including one for conservatives, one for liberals, one for musicians and one for book people. This allows me to see the activity of those people.

Secondly, complaining that algorithms tailor search results to the point that one searcher looking for links to Obama gets New York Times links while another gets Fox News links is also a bit short-sighted. Adding a few words to “Obama” will definitely get either searcher a broader result which as it broadens is likely to get more and more similar.

In other words, the more passive you are about this shit, the more you deserve how it limits you. Howard Rheingold has called it”information literacy.” I like that quite a bit. For a good introduction to how to be more adept at evaluating the results of your online search see Rheingold’s essay “Crap Detection 101.”

Here are couple more articles by Rheingold I bookmarked to read:

Wired 7.01: Look Who’s Talking (amish and tech)

howard rheingold’s | tools for thought

Even though they are old, they look pertinent.

Incidentally I basically stole these insights from people interviewed in “The Echo Chamber Revisited” a segment in this past weekend’s “On the Media.”


The Atrophy of Private Life by Jennifer Moxley : The Poetry Foundation

A poem I ran across this morning and kind of liked. It’s a bit preachy. But I like what it’s preaching.


Haiku Journey by Kimberly Blaeser : The Poetry Foundation

Another poem I ran across and liked.


137 Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness)

Found this essay as an old bookmark. Not sure how I came to find it, but enjoyed reading it.


Lawyers and Accountants Once Put Integrity First –

An interesting insider look at this.


Disability and H.I.V. – I Had Polio. I Also Have Sex. –

Had to read this just from looking at the headline. Good stuff.


Book Review – The Secret Knowledge – By David Mamet –

This fascinates me because it is written by Christopher Hitchens, an excellent writer who went from being a dedicated socialist to a spokesperson for the right wing’s ideas about Iraq.  Mamet’s new book outlines his own move into conservative ideology. Hitchens rips him to shreds. I like Mamet’s plays as I suspect Hitchens does. But fuzzy thinking is fuzzy thinking.

About admin

This information box about the author only appears if the author has biographical information. Otherwise there is not author box shown. Follow YOOtheme on Twitter or read the blog.

2 thoughts on “search engine passivity and information literacy

  1. I believe that these kind of social interaction groups are especially problematic and eventually will fade with these limiting ability to effectively control the information that you want. It is apparent to me that the FCC control of this was mitigated by Search Engine Organizations indicating that they can mitigate or Control information was a reason that the fed has stopped pursuing SEO’s. Also, I believe that this form on medium is constantly in a state of flux. I have contracted for Search Engine optimization organizations in the past and it worked beautifully. Now you can do it yourself on Google with hiring anyone. I think the medium is destined for a huge change. What that is or in what form is yet to be seen. I believe that the bombardment of information on the society is making people have to spend more time in discerning what information that they shall make knowledge. By the way this is how they control information in China through SEO and Site blocks.

  2. I on the other hand find the medium very useful and exciting. There are presently so many ways to I find to use it.

    Eileen and I were able to Skype with my daughter Sarah in England for an hour and a half yesterday. I think that’s very cool.

    I constantly turn to the internet for music, books and articles. Recently I have been studying a bit of jazz pedagogy. I find it indispensable to quickly hear the music being discussed and recommended in the texts I am using. I find the music on the Freegal web site I have mentioned in previous blogs which anyone with a library card can access in Holland and other places. I download free tracks from Fregal and am happy to occasionally purchase a track at a time from Amazon.

    I love reading a review of a book and being able to download an ebook of it within minutes of reading the review and not leave my living room.

    An important part of education and learning is understanding how to sift through information and analysis to find pertinent accurate stuff that will inform us. This happens looking through journals and reference books as well as using the internet. The web has been since its inception a quickly moving evolving concept. Your notion that unfiltered information is drowning us seems to me to be related to the notion that we must always process our environment. A lot of people don’t do this. This is not new. Sure there’s lots more available, but I don’t think the percentage of people interested in learning, reading and thinking has changed that much.

    Educated discernment (crap detection) is what I think is needed.

    What do you think of Howard Rheingold’s understanding and pedagogy around information literacy (links in post above)? Have you looked at it? If so, what did you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.