Sunday, May 29, 2011

Avoiding the Internet "Filter Bubble"

The Commercial Space blog is officially two years old on Sunday.

Also a "commercial space" activity. 
The first post, titled "About This Blog" was published on May 29th, 2009 and described an intent to concentrate on providing news and commentary on Canadian space focused industries , the partnerships developed to maintain and grow those industries and the politics surrounding those partnerships.

Mostly, I did this because there seemed to be no other sources of information or traditional media outlets covering this area in any great detail.

There wasn't, but I was also trapped inside my own personal and private "filter bubble" of personal preferences and self sorting tendencies that essentially limited my access to contrary information and knowledge outside my (then) immediate area of interest.

Author Eli Pariser.
And it's not just me.

These tendencies are especially strong among the general population in the area of media preference and are even used by web companies like Google and Yahoo to tailor their news and search results to our perceived personal tastes.

In essence, any two people looking for information about "commercial space activities" are likely to receive two different sets of links and background information, which makes it more and more difficult to agree on basic facts or debate public policy.

According to organizer and author Eli Pariser, seen below at a recent TED talk, this is "narrowing our worldview" and bad for democratic society.

He's right, but for a bit more background information on this topic, it's certainly worthwhile to check out the search engine optimization entry in Wikipedia and then consider how powerful an advertising message would be if there was never any way to collect information that could contradict the initial advertizement.  

As it stands now, the only real way to avoid a filter bubble is to consciously seek out new opinions, sources of information and then develop a consistent context to tie together these disparate sources of "raw data" into repositories of useful, contextual information.

Is there a greater role waiting for Canada in space?
This is what I've been trying to do over the last two years.

I can't do it all myself and continue to rely on others like Marc Boucher at (who lets me write the "This Week in Space for Canada" columns), Elizabeth Howell (who once worked on the PARS3C blog and now contributes to the Ottawa Business Journal), Peter Rakobowchuk (who writes on Canadian space activities for the Canadian Press), Clark S. Lindsey over at Hobby Space (who sometimes exposes my writings to a wider, mostly US based audience), Kevin Shortt at the Canadian Space Society (CSS) and everyone associated with him plus pretty much everyone associated with the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA).

We need these people and others from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and commercial concerns like Telesat, MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), and ComDev International along with political pundits, scientists, educators and advocates of all stripes to create and preserve the sort of "embedded ethics" that Eli Pariser feels are needed to provide information and access what is really happening in space for Canada these days.

In the final analysis, it's up to the readers to decide if the 175 posts made on this blog over the last 24 months are a useful summary of Canadian space activities during that period. I intend to keep writing and hopefully people like you will keep reading and perhaps we'll even learn a few useful things as we go along.

Maybe I'll even be able to continue making a few bucks on the side. Wish me luck.

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