By Jonathan Matthew Smucker
There's a daunting amount of information out there, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming to even begin sorting through it. Personalization can help. For instance, I can find music that fits my tastes by using Pandora, or movies I like through Netflix. The services provided by companies like Pandora, Netflix, Amazon, et al are designed to study us ~ to get to know us rather intimately ~ to the point where Netflix can now predict the average customer's rating of a given movie within half a star. Eli paints a picture of your computer monitor as "a kind of one-way mirror, reflecting your own interests while algorithmic observers watch what you click."
Companies that you know, like Google and Facebook, and companies you've probably never heard of (e.g. Acxiom) are using increasingly sophisticated programs to map your personality.
VALUES REFLECTED BACK:
THE ILLUSION OF DOING SOMETHING
(Picture them inspiring each other with status updates like, "No one should have give up their bus seat because of the color of their skin. Please post as your status if you agree.")
SELF-SELECTION ON STEROIDS
But are you, climate activist, up for this task?
Or will you instead orient yourself toward the center of a small, insular climate activist subculture?
Will you frame your message strategically to connect with people who live beyond the boundaries of your group?
Or will you content yourself to signal only to your friends?
The world may be going to hell in a hand basket, but at least you're there taking a righteous stand, surrounded by other righteous eco-warriors, right?