We’re not really surfing the web anymore, but rather, we’re lying on the shore and waiting for the right websites to wash over us. In his book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, Eli Pariser writes about the internet and how websites such as Google, Facebook, and Youtube tailor the content we see to the information that these sites gather from our online activity. This personalized practice creates what Pariser calls the “filter bubble” (you can visit Nupur Behera‘s website “Bursting the [Filter] Bubble” or watch her video below to find out exactly how this works).
Pariser writes, “in a personalized world, important but complex or unpleasant issues-the rising prison population, for example, or homelessness-are less likely to come to our attention at all” (18). This means that although the bubble allows us to get content that we probably care more about, it blocks us away from social issues that we may not have been aware of before.
This quote speaks directly to one of the reasons I am developing this website. Global poverty is one of these social issues that we here in America may not be exposed to on a regular basis. Based on the filter bubble framework, this may be because marketers see no reason for us to care.
Or do they? Pariser argues the the filter bubble was created as websites found means to sell its users’ information to advertisers. Ads are the main source of funding for online platforms, and thus hold a lot of power. Advertising revenue determines what we see at the top of every Google search or our Facebook newsfeed. This often means that we get more information about ongoing sales or new livingsocial adventure than about a famine in Africa. But what if ads tie together the products they endorse to social issues that the company cares about (i.e. their CSR initiative)? does that make us more socially aware?
My previous posts about TOMs and Fair Trade talked about how these initiatives do more to get the word out about global poverty than actually addressing it. The filter bubble is one area where this advocacy focus really comes into play. If advocacy on social issues is injected into our bubble of interest, would that mean we’ll be more aware and engaged with even a seemingly distant issue as well?
Maybe with CSR advertising in the picture, we can still venture into deeper waters on the web.