Are you a master or slave of the technology?

Are you a master or slave of the technology?

«A world constructed from the familiar is the world in which there’s nothing to learn»

That is what Eli Praiser wrote in his 2011 book, The Filter Bubble: what is the Internet hiding from you. Did you already search online? Sure. Did you already feel that you always find what you were looking for? That most of the people agree with what you think? The Internet is a treasure of information and knowledge. There is a mass of information, written, published, shared… Sometimes, we can even lose sight of reality. It is a huge network, a great machine, and above all a free service to some extent.

We may not be able to reach every information, for every political side, for every opinion, every news… It is just too much! So how can we control this «tool»? How is it possible, not to get lost in there? Eli Pariser gave us an answer. The internet activist was working on the concept of «filter bubbles». He discovered, how passive we are while searching for information on the Internet, and how our previously existing opinion will be confirmed by the news we have access to. This is due to algorithms through our laptops, smartphones, touch pads.

It is kind of scary to find out that my laptop knows me better than anyone. He knows my gender, my age, my family situation, my opinions, my hobbies, my interests… Let us take the example of Google, even if it does not have a monopoly as a Web Browser. Google +, Google Docs, Google Photos, Gmail: Google has the possibility to know a lot about me. By searching the link «How your ads are personalized?» in the Google Ad Setting, and discover what my friend Google knows about me. Briefly, service is never free, a user pays with his/her data. He/She becomes «a product».

Thus, by knowing me through different processes and tools, my different devices, one realizes what we call an algorithm. An algorithm is «a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, as for finding the greatest common divisor». As we mentioned, there is a need to sort and select the information online. Because of the abundance of those, this can not be done by a person and has to be automatic, This algorithm is based on my activity online, the websites I visited, my localization, my language, my age, my religious interests, my friends… It enables to get more friends, it finds the websites I could be interested in, the photos I would love, the event I could go to. Briefly, it is almost leading me, the way I think, the way I move, the way I visit.

This phenomenon is called «Echoing Chambers». What I get makes an «echo» to what I am already thinking. It confirms and strengthens my opinion in reducing my access to other points of view. By being isolated from other opinions, I lose my critical mind, and it also has an influence on my relationships. Thereby, «Echoing Chamber», isolates me and locks me in a «Filter Bubble». So, am I the master or the slave of the news I get? Do I control my online network or am I a victim of it?

According to Collins, a salve is «the state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his or her life, liberty, and fortune». It is, briefly a human being classed as a «property». In opposition, «If you are master of a situation, you have complete control over it». In the case of «Echoing Chamber», It is almost credible to say that certain users, become kind of slaves because they lose part of their critical mind. That is, in fact, a form of submission, a form of dependence, and finally a loose of control and of freedom. Facebook suggests for us friends, Google, suggests for me, answers, Instagram suggests for me, photos,… It personalizes my social networks, my online research… organizes my life in away. Human beings created innovation and technologies, but do they still control them? Is not it the art of modern slavery, to be indoctrinated this way?

This modern slavery can also lead to extreme and violent thoughts, because of the lack of questioning, and openness, and the influence it has on my relationship. Here are some ideas to control this phenomenon, in order to be active, in the research we do, and not become a «modern slaves» of social media, the technologies. The future is not written yet, so we can change our relationship with the media. For the first time, it is necessary to wonder, every day, question, question the answers I find, discuss it in the non-virtual world. Thereby, we keep being open-minded, and resilient. While searching for something on the internet, maybe it would be good to look for the opposite opinion. Be just interested in one opinion would lead to locking yourself in a filter Bubble and not having access to the opposite opinion if we do not search deeply for it. For example, during the campaign trail, I am interested in one political party. If I just look for this party, the random daily news I will get, even on my social media, will not oppose my opinion, but it will strengthen it. This dominant discourse will be dangerous for me, and for the people around me.

We can also change the way we use the media by choosing another search engine like Google or Yahoo! for instance. Other search engines like Unbubble or Duckduckgo do not store our personal information. Thereby, the user can keep searching neutral contents online with a «strong privacy», and without being «tracked». The results will not be influenced by their localization or their search history. It is also possible, with certain web browsers, such as Firefox, to turn on the Do Not Track feature, or even to find one, such as Brave, which blocks automatically trackers and publicizes. It can also be useful to sign out sometimes in order to make no connections between Gmail and YouTube for example. The Echoing chamber is thus a threat against our individual thinking, but also against our personal security. This was a non-exhaustive list, to try to improve the situation and to let fewer traces on the net. To find more information about your shadow and control your steps, check the website Me And My Shadow.

Elise Giroud

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