Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Emma Watson, A Modern Rhetorician

On Sunday, September 21st, Emma Watson gave a powerful speech at the UN on feminism and her movement, HeForShe. Feminism lately has become a word that often turns people off from a conversation. As Ms. Watson notes, it has become nearly synonymous with man hating. However, through her artful rhetoric and her use of ethos and pathos she is able to in a sense rebrand the word into something nearly everyone can get behind.
Her entire speech itself centers around rhetoric and civic life. Civic life being about caring for others and rhetoric getting, sustaining and transforming attention through shapes and symbols. The one thing that Ms. Watson does best in her speech is transform the attention on feminism. She in this respect was not too different than what Prodicus did in his work. Both looked very closely at the meaning of every single little word in what they spoke. Through her speech she mostly uses the term gender equality. While this is nearly synonymous with feminism they have grown to hold drastically different connotations. Ms. Watson goes about transforming the meaning of this word through two methods. First, she gives a clear working definition for the word. Second, and the more powerful of the two, is that she states the word does not matter but the meaning behind it, more eloquently put by her, “We are struggling for a uniting word but the good news is we have a uniting movement.”
This statement also is an example of her use of pathos in her speech. The word “we” is a very empowering word. It implies that the speaker and their audience are on the same team. Through her use of pathos throughout her speech she calls to action her audience and empowers them to act. Pathos also has a strong presence in her speech in her tone and facial expressions. Particularly just before the 5 minute mark in the attached video you can hear and see her raw emotions in a set of statements all beginning with, “I think it is right that…,” and the audience is certainly affected as she receives a round of applause after this part of her speech. One more example of her strong pathos in her speech is when she brings up male suicide in the UK. Already she has the audience listening as at this point in her speech she has shifted to talking about gender inequality for men instead of women, but bringing up male suicide as a part of this demands a strong emotional response. Nearly everyone has been touched in some way by suicide and bringing this up in her speech calls this to mind and galvanizes support for HeForShe.
Another very important part of her speech is another Aristotelian appeal, ethos. She fairly subtly builds ethos near the end of her speech starting in a very self deprecating way. During this part she starts with the rhetorical question of, “Who is this Harry Potter girl and what is she doing speaking at the UN?” While certainly humorous, she calls herself into question, however she also makes herself human in this phrase. Often people of her social stature are put on a pedestal and when people are put on a pedestal others are forced to look up at them. She successfully steps down from this however and makes herself approachable, human. In calling herself into question she also opens a void in her ethos but one that she very quickly fills. She starts this off with simple facts about herself. She is the goodwill ambassador for women. She has been struggling with feminism almost her entire life. She goes on to recount examples where her gender was forced to play a role. However she ends this and her speech with two more rhetorical questions which end up being the most powerful part of the speech. She asks, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” These two questions are so simple and in part it is this simplicity that makes the audience genuinely think about this question.
I hope this article gets you to at least watch Ms. Watsons speech and you might be surprised how this “Harry Potter girl” convinces you to a feminist.
-Danny Fell

Nazi Bubbles

The lack of dissoi logoi in today's world is a result of many influential factors which ultimately polarizes countless aspects of our daily lives. Companies spend large sums of money every year to create advertisements used to sway an individual's opinion about the specific topic. Car companies, political campaigns, even social media use targeting advertisements to encourage an individual to use a product or vote for a certain candidate because the other options are inferior. How people interpret and respond to these advertisements depends on both their personal filter bubble and the company's filter bubble. People hear what they want to hear and companies tell what they want to be told.

I personally have a very strict filter bubble that I constantly work towards reducing. Most of my opinions about aspects of life are very similar, if not identical to my parents'. Whether it be politics, religion, or which product to buy, my opinions have been skewed by my upbringing. I constantly encounter opinions other than my own on media feeds and unfortunately I ignore most of those opinions without giving it much thought. Many of my good friends are of the opposing political party than me which has helped me become less polarized, however I still skip past most social media posts related to the opposite political party. I grew up watching the news with my dad on a daily basis and rarely watch news broadcasts that are considered to be of the opposite end of the political spectrum. There isn't a particular reason as to why I watch the news broadcasts that I do other than the fact that I'm comfortable watching the ones that I do and I can easily relate to news anchors on those broadcasts.

While I have my own ideological leanings, I do not follow or unfollow people based on their ideological leanings. I like to listen to what others have to say and try to stay open minded when hearing another individual's opinion. I believe that everybody has the right to their own opinion and a simple disagreement in ideological leanings should not result in completely ignoring each other. In my senior year world affairs class, I was required to find a news article about an event that happened in a foreign country over the weekend and write a report on it. In order to keep my reports as unbiased as possible, I used BBC's news reports for all of my information. Fox news tends to report on news from a conservative standpoint while MSNBC and CNN tend to report on news from a liberal standpoint. By using BBC's articles, my information lessened the degree to which my paper was right wing/left wing biased.

I would definitely agree that the decline of dissoi logoi associated with internetworked media is responsible for an increase in polarization. People listen to what they want to hear and the media has picked up on that. Conservative news stations only broadcast what Republicans want to hear. Could you imagine what would happen if Fox News anchors were preaching liberal ideals and idolizing left winged politicians? This doesn't happen because both the media and the viewers have strict filter bubbles that prevent hearing both sides of an opinion. I believe that this decline of dissoi logoi isn't currently an issue but it has the potential to causing serious problems.

 Many people in the United States have opinions that are not easily changed, especially when related to politics. Many republicans would refuse to watch MSNBC if Fox News was on and likewise, many democrats would refuse to watch Fox News if MSNBC was available. The source of news that people in the United States receive hardly ever changes due to polarization. It is my belief that the more polarized people become, the less communication between people of opposing opinions and ultimately hatred. I believe that this is partly what happened in Nazi Germany.

Adolf Hitler rose to power by blaming German economic hardships on the Jewish individuals and spread that message through his book, Mein Kampf. Hitler was arguably one of the best public speakers in the 20th century and he used that power to gain many followers. The German people that believed Hitler were so polarized to Nazism that they refused to listen to the cries of help coming from the Jewish population, which was being slaughtered by the millions. A lack of dissoi logoi in Germany at that time resulted in millions of innocent people being tortured and murdered. The filter bubble that Nazi leaders put on the people of Germany at that time prevented opposing opinions from being brought to light. Had modern media been available at that time, I believe the genocide that resulted from WWII would have never have escalated to the level that it did.

The past is available for us to learn from mistakes and make decisions based on the past. With the genocide that resulted from Nazi polarization, today's generation should learn from what happened and engage in dissoi logoi more frequently. Unfortunately, that is not the result that internetworked media is having on the world today and hopefully the increase in polarization evens out or even decreases.

In Defense of Txting


“You young whippersnappers and your clickety-clacky cellular devices…why, when I was a young boy, I talked with the lads via carrier pigeon and then when they didn’t answer I had to walk barefoot to school in the snow while being chased by wolves.” –Old man reflecting on millennials and texting

            Texting has carried a negative stigma since the day “lol” became a term of amusement. Often, our generation, dubbed “Millennials” by older generations, is associated with the growing popularity of instant messaging and thus the stereotypes that go with it. Much like the belligerent fake quote from the old man above, people often associate the quick and easy method of text messaging with laziness and procrastination. However, according to linguist John McWhorter, texting may actually be a language that’s advancing right under our noses. In the link below, there is both a podcast from the NPR’s TED Radio Hour on “The Spoken and Unspoken,” which is a condensed version of McWhorter’s talk, and his actual talk. Both ultimately say the same thing, just one is longer.

McWhorter’s Theory: modern day text messaging is a developing “write how you speak” language. This seems surprising. In depicting text messaging as a language, this also implies that the millions of people that use the lingo of texting are bilingual, and most of those people are our age. According to a study done in 2011 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project,  "Cell owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day -- more than 3,200 texts per month. And the typical or median cell owner in this age group sends or receives 50 messages per day.” And that was 3 years ago. So now that you’ve watched or listened to McWhorter’s talk, let’s back his theory up further by using terms from Rhetoric in Civic Life.

McWhorter touches on denotations and connotations in his talk. One such “word” is “lol,” which was originally meant to signify humor but it is now used as a term of empathy. This is also an example of resignification or an example of inflated language. Words and phrases used in text messaging 5 years ago have either been tossed out or have developed into physical speech such as “omg.” Nonetheless, text messaging created unique terms and phrases that people before text messaging’s popularity would not have understood.  Coupled with this, because it is used through a medium other than speech, these words are a separate language, or at least a tangent of the English language.

Texting itself is also used as a euphemism, or used “to denote a thing in a way that avoids connotations of harshness or unpleasantness” (51). Rather than making the bad news better for the receiver however, texting reverses the process and makes it far easier for the bearer to break the news. It’s much, much easier to tell your boyfriend that you want to break up when you aren’t face-to-face, much easier but not better. This is a misuse of language as talked about in the textbook. If texting can be misused, then clearly it is also a language.

The main aspect of language the textbook hits on, however, is how language constructs social reality. After all, if there weren’t a word for the color “purple,” would purple even exist? Surely, purple as a physical concept would exist, but that wouldn’t matter if no one could see it and experience it. Our words shape the way we think. For example, time in the English language is seen as horizontally linear with a past, present and future, but in the Chinese language time is seen as vertical and therefore the grammar does not include different tenses. It is impossible for us to wrap our minds around this because we do not have the language to express this thought. Text messaging contributes to a need to get things done, and to get things done fast. It has become so integrated in our society that new generations can’t remember a time without it.

“The medium is the message.”—Marshall McLuhan

McWhorter would be a devout follower of McLuhan’s quote above and throughout this post, I’ve been giving you reasons why this may be true: the medium through which our speech is being filtered ultimately is the message. However, we talked in class about how McLuhan’s quote should actually be “The medium shapes the message. While the debate over whether text messaging is actually its own language and should be taught as a component to the English language or not may last decades. One thing is for sure though: as the world around us descends, or perhaps transcends, into a five by three inch screen, the way we communicate and thus relate to each other is significantly altered.

The “Spoken and Unspoken” TED Radio Hour includes other key rhetorical concepts we’ve either talked about in class or read in the book. I would highly recommend listening to the podcast if you have the time!

Facial Recognition, Your Data, and Deals Deals Deals!

60 Minutes: A Face in the Crowd: Say Goodbye to Anonymity
One of the greatest issues with the rise of Big Data is that much of the information collected about individuals is done so against the individual’s will and without his or her knowledge. The predictability that arises from such data collection is, however, often valuable enough to large businesses that it can outweigh any moral obligations of or to privacy. Knowledge is power, and the ability to definitively know a woman is pregnant before she tells even her father, for example, is a not just a great boon for profits, it is a razor-edge in a cutthroat business world.
            Last year, “60 Minutes” featured a section delving into the world of facial recognition and its role as a rising prospect of Big Data turned Big Business. In it we see the possibilities of everyday facial recognition being explored. For example, Facedeals is a new opt-in app developed by marketing firm Redpepper that uses shop-installed Facedeals cameras and facial recognition to recognize customers, probe their online identities for information (i.e. through Facebook likes), and offer a personally-tailored deal that is more likely to be utilized.
            Furthermore, other companies are striving to create more effective displays through recognizing the shopper at a given moment in time. The “60 Minutes” presentation features an promotional video from Intel that offers scenarios in which a display may change from shoe sales when being viewed by a young woman to golf club deals when a older man walks by, granting merit to the comparison made in the “60 Minutes” video between today’s facial recognition and the highly-aggressive, personalized marketing in the fictional film Minority Report.
Proponents of widespread facial recognition, such as David McMullen, CEO of Redpepper, argue that we have all already given up our privacy through the widespread use of surveillance cameras, GPS devices, and our credit cards. Therefore the gain of savings is a better deal than receiving nothing and still having our personal information out in the world’s vast sea of data. However, this viewpoint presupposes that the status quo of the loss of privacy is and will always be. The very first question, then, that we must ask ourselves is if privacy is something we want to defend, and if so, what is the best path is to regaining it?

Guess Who I Am

I recently ran across a short personality quiz through an ad on Facebook for a website called Playbuzz.  I clicked on the link and was led to a webpage that started with “Can we guess who you are in 20 questions?”  I let curiosity get the best of me and absentmindedly answered the prompted questions.  I was asked how much time it took for me to get ready in the morning, if I liked eating corn on the cob, and the last time I had been intoxicated, among other odd things.  My results? I am a woman in my early 30’s with two kids, have a job I'm only complacent with, and am married to a great husband, none of which are even close to my current reality.  This is the picture that’s supposed to look like me as well.  It’s a little off. 
If you would like to take the quiz for yourself you can access it here.   
               This site had no credibility or scientific research behind it, and it was listed with other quizzes for bored souls such as myself with names like “which magical creature are you?” or “what age will you die”.  Any logical person should not put any faith into the quiz results.  However, the pointless questions reminded me of how untrue a person’s online identity can be. 
               I signed up for Facebook only three or four weeks ago, and was prompted with questions similar to those on the quiz.  They weren’t quite so random, but they still had little blurbs of information I rarely thought about.  I didn’t answer any of them, as I was not about to spend 15 minutes picking my favorite movies, books, and TV shows.  Also, if I had answered the questions, would it really lead people to know what I’m truly like?  Could a person somehow figure out I am a naturally curious person who likes to take stuff in rather than be the center of attention, or that I am content with only a few close friends, or that I have a desire to be anywhere but the Midwest someday to see what else is out there?  Sure, they might know small details from stuff I like or post, but this compilation of social network activity does not do my personality any justice, even if someone spent an hour looking through everything on my account.  Looking through some friends’ Facebooks, I’m guessing they would say the same.  
               For anyone who doesn’t want the world to know their personal lives, this is great. That person’s Facebook identity can be tweaked to a more socially acceptable version.  However, what if said person wanted to craft an online identity (whether it be on Facebook or not) that perfectly encompassed all the traits that made him who he is.  Could he do it?
               I’m going to leave that question alone for a moment.  In the Rainie and Wellman book entitled Networked-The New Social Operating System, networked individualism was explained through the Johnson-Lenz couple.  Long story short, after the wife’s freak accident that sent her to the hospital, the couple received an outpouring of support achieved through their social network.  Close friends and complete strangers “sent poems, expressions of love and encouragement, and offers of help and prayer” as well as financial help and professional advice. 
The couple quickly realized the work they needed to put into this social network system in order to maintain the support.  Through every means of communication, they coordinated with people wanting to help.  They were immensely successful, yet did people actually know who they were helping?  The couple even asked themselves “What’s the right balance of optimism, humor, and candidness?”  They knew they had to create an online persona that people sympathized with in order to keep receiving kindness.  They said they opted out of real-time conversations and interactions where trust grows, but yet agreed that “each relationship is a source of unique nourishment”.  They used the word relationship like they knew everyone who was helping them.  They didn’t.  People liked them because they lived in Portland, or had a shared interest in Jazz music, not because they would be close friends in real life.
The book went on to say people live in networks where the person is now the focus, and people are hooked on each other.  If this is true, shouldn’t the idea or image of that person be absolutely true?  I think it is the farthest thing from it.  Besides the people that already had close ties with the Johnson-Lenz couple, no one knew them.  The couple designed who they were online to get the most out of their network.  It wasn’t a network of personal relationships.  It was a network of business type relationships where one person helped another person.  I could have helped the couple by giving them $50 to make me feel like I’m making a charitable contribution to the well-being of their lives without giving them a second thought of sympathy the next day. 
With that backstory in mind, I will return to my initial question.  Could someone perfectly depict his personality online?  I do not believe so.  There are far too many facets of a personality to contain in an identity of statuses, pictures, blog posts, and liked pages.  In order for the Johnson-Lenz couple to receive support, they had to filter their lives to choose which parts to expound upon.  I highly doubt the wife was going to put anything on her social media about how maybe she enjoys shopping.  (I have no idea what the wife liked, this is just an example).  The couple’s audience didn’t care about her shopping.  They wanted to know about her health, or they wanted to see what a great couple this is to make them feel good about sending assistance in some way.  The couple used rhetoric to choose which components of their lives would appeal to their audience.  They had no intention of showing the world who they were inside and out.  For my person in question trying to make his own identity online, he could try and compose a good idea of himself, but even then he is left at the mercy of his audience.  For example, maybe he posts a link to a republican article he really liked in order to further his association with conservative values, but a Facebook friend sees it and assumes he posted it because he has a tendency to hop on the bandwagon and only posted it because ten of his other friends did.  Similar to a rhetorical situation, a person can make very educated guesses as to what the audience will interpret.  However, nothing is certain, and therefore the person’s Facebook page (or blog or twitter) does not certainly show his correct personality.  Also keep in mind that even if an audience rightly understands one trait of a person, there are bound to be fifty more that they might be wrong about.  I don’t know any exact numbers, but statistically this doesn’t look good.       
Overall, the man I’ve talked about (the one trying to create his persona via technology) could steer people in the right direction about who he really is.  I’m not saying everyone is strangers online.  However, in the end, nothing will beat the face-to-face relationships that people have valued for thousands of years.  The Rainie and Wellman book claimed that the small social networks people used to have with a few important family members, friends, and neighbors are being replaced with loser, fragmented networks that are far more beneficial to society.  I agree that these large social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have exponentially increased in presence, but those small social networks away from any electronic screen are never going to go away.  Humans by nature need the closeness and support provided by knowing someone inside and out and not through a profile page.    
Playbuzz website
Rainie and Wellman's Networked-The New Social Operating System

Monday, September 29, 2014

What John Mayer Has to Say About the Filter Bubble

        Before our discussion on the "filter bubble" in class,  I was not even aware of its existence. I believed that I was essentially my own information gatekeeper - following and unfollowing personas on Twitter based on what I want to see on my feed. On Facebook, I encountered the occasional post from a friend or relative with a differing opinion, but never went as far as to unfriend them. However, rarely did I ever pay close attention to what they had to say. Essentially, I was hindering my own participation in dissoi logoi without even realizing it.
        I am guilty, as I am sure many others are, of filtering my own information intake. If I google search a question and find an answer that does not satisfy my opinion, often I will close out of that page in search of a more fitting answer that reinforces my beliefs. The same goes for television. Rarely do I view news channels that pose differing opinions than my own. I do my best to listen to the "other side," as dissoi logoi would prefer, but in the end why should I? Now to answer that question, I most certainly should, but media today allows us to not have to. This can be a dangerous mindset on its own, and in combination with the "filter bubble" being utilized by media companies like Google, Facebook, Buzz Feed, etc... , this becomes an even greater threat to dissoi logoi.
        These personalized "filter bubbles," created by the self and outside forces, can often lead to polarization. This can be seen in the politics within our own state, Nebraska. It is obvious that the majority of voters in Nebraska lean towards the conservative side. With filter bubbles in play, the voice of the minority (liberals in this case), is often drowned out. However, polarization can also occur within the same political party. Candidates are criticized for not being conservative or liberal enough. An example of this can be found here. Shane Osborn, a Republican candidate running for the senate is attacked by his own party - claiming that he is not conservative enough and therefore not right for Nebraska. In my opinion, I do see polarization becoming more and more of a problem. According to dissoi logoi, the best rhetor is one that understands both sides of his or her argument. Theoretically, the best candidate for an election would be one that satisfies ideals from both parties. But the more time people spend in their comfortable filter bubbles, the less accepting they become of opposing opinions. This translates into the voting process, preventing a more balanced candidate from getting elected.
        The only way this problem can be fixed, is if we actively participate in dissoi logoi. You may not always agree with what someone else has to say, but you can always learn something from them. There are a number of actions we can take to engage in dissoi logoi:

1. Step out of your comfort zone

        I know this is an obvious one, but in today's society, "comfort zone" has a whole new meaning. The filter bubble is the new comfort zone. Nearly every bit of information we receive can be personalized and tailored to our likings. If we do not actively seek out and avoid these filters, then dissoi logoi will be lost. TheFilterBubble.com gives us 10 ways we can "pop" the filter bubble.

2. Consider the other side
        There are numerous ways to go about doing this. One example would be to watch two news channels with opposing viewpoints. However, be careful when doing so because, as John Mayer tells us in Waiting on the World to Change, "And when you trust your television, what you get is what you got. 'Cause when they own the information oh, they can bend it all they want." This is yet another example of how media can filter its information. So for the best results, it is wise to gather information from a number of different mediums, such as newspapers, television, and online articles. (If you have not heard the John Mayer song, I strongly recommend clicking on the link and doing so)

3. Implement dissoi logoi on a regular basis
        This can be as simple as striking up a conversation at the dinner table, with friends, or blogging about it! No one will benefit from dissoi logoi unless we discuss it. This can often result in an argument, but that is not always a bad thing. We learn from these arguments.


The Filter Bubble in Conflict Zones

The emergence of social media has become a pathway for average people across the world to communicate and exchange ideas. In theory, social media should be an unrestrained path to access information, where everyone can research similar pages. However, this is usually not the case. Many newsfeeds and timelines are directly tailored for the specific user viewing the information. Whether it be local advertisements or one-sided political posts, the filters use an algorithm based on your past online experience to make decisions on what you see. This doesn’t sound like the free exchange of ideas that the Internet promised, but rather it creates a system of secular ideas that become even more withdrawn from any opposing beliefs. The isolation has been intimately referred to as the “filter bubble”. In the scheme of things, the “filter bubble” has been relatively benign in peaceful Western countries. However, what happens when the “filter bubble” is extended to war torn areas?
            This past summer the conflict between Gaza and Israel reached a boiling point as missiles streamed overhead both territories. In the end, the conflict was only resolved with a new dialogue between the opposing sides. In this case, persuasion, with effective Dissoi Logoi, could have meant the end of the bloody conflict much sooner. However, popular support for each of their respective sides fueled the continuing war effort. Many sources report social media may have been a contributing factor to the war cries. A Data Scientist with Betaworks, Gilad Lotan noticed that in pro-Israel areas, it took a great amount of effort to find any type of contradictory narratives. “When looking at the events and especially when you're in Israel at the thick of it, it is so hard to get away from it. So you get this polarization in Israeli society as well that makes it even tougher to look at the other side.”  Only bringing like-minds together has stifled any true discourse between the warring sides. However if you can reach beyond the algorithms and interact with others not like yourself, it can provide for an enriching experience.

            Although the “filter bubble” has harmed a true discourse in Gaza, there are both technological affordances and constraints to social media. Its relatively anonymous nature allows for unpopular opinions to surface on either side of the border without ramifications. In traditional debate settings, these minorities would be condemned for their beliefs, so many would choose not to speak at all. Although anonymity allows for minority involvement, it can come at the expense of quality debate. It hinders one of the major tenants of argumentation: ethos. In the absence of ethos, it is difficult to gauge credibility because it becomes unclear why an audience should adopt their stance over another.  With all things, users have to weigh the benefits and consequences when using social media as opposed to formal means of communications. Also there has to be a bit of social responsibility on the part of Internet giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook, especially when the stakes can be this high.
Sunstein reading

An Overflowing Glass

The Third Metric Article

In our very technologically focused world, we are constantly bombarded with information.  This information can relate to anything and everything – from updates on the ISIS crisis to our friend’s engagement, even news on the Ebola pandemic and 20 reasons to date a sorority girl.  We can access all this and so much more with the simple click of our mouse or the touch of a finger.  With so much information, there is a point where we information-consumers can’t effectively absorb any more.  An article from The Third Metric says that “[the information overload] is like having water poured into a glass continuously all day long, so whatever was there at the top has to spill out as the new water comes down. We’re constantly losing the information that’s just come in -- we’re constantly replacing it, and there’s no place to hold what you’ve already gotten… And it’s hard for people to metabolize and make sense of the information because there’s so much coming at them and they’re so drawn to it. You end up feeling overwhelmed because what you have is an endless amount of facts without a way of connecting them into a meaningful story."  This is mainly a result of the many facets of information that we have access to. We can look to newspapers, blogs, social media, televised news, and articles from online news sites to try and find the truth in the info that is presented. The problem is that each source presents the information differently, and with different wordings and sides of the story, it is difficult to grasp what the truth is.  During our breaks and free time, we could spend time thinking about the articles we’ve read and the news stories we heard to try to digest what we just learned about. But instead of that, we tend to try and absorb more new information. New information is comparable to a new pair of shoes. The newness of them adds to the appeal, and we tell ourselves that what we have isn’t sufficient, and we need more. Being drawn to the new information seems like it should be great, because it means that as a culture we are interested in what’s going on. Unfortunately, in our consumerist society, once something has been seen it loses its initial attraction, and soon it becomes “out” once again. After an article is read, it isn’t digested; rather it is forgotten as we look to find the next best tidbit. This process continues over and over to leave us feeling overwhelmed with all of the information.
When information-consumers begin to feel overwhelmed they turn to their social media sites to see what their friends and acquaintances are saying about the issue. This is confirmed by Rainie and Wellmans’ book Networked, where they wrote, “the increasing amount of information pouring into people’s lives leads them to turn to their social networks to make sense of it.” Looking to see what others are thinking about an issue can create a well-rounded individual. Unfortunately, many sites have begun to use complex algorithms to sort the posts that their users can see. The algorithms are based off the user’s history. Which links are clicked on, online friends, and the types of websites a user views most are all stored in a data base and then algorithms are used to create “filter bubbles” for users. Filter bubbles are used by many sites, including popular sites like Facebook and Google. This means that personal web history is being used to filter out opinions, people, and sites that don’t seem to reflect the opinions of a user. These algorithms are in place to help us feel less overwhelmed by all of the information that we have access to so we can begin to process it. The downside of filter bubbles is that it is simply a nonhuman limiting what we have access to viewing. Many users don’t realize that they are in a filter bubble, so they assume that everyone around them has the same opinion. This feeling leads to a myopic individual who believes that there is no other legitimate opinion.

To prevent overloading of information and to stop our "glasses from overflowing", the filter bubble may be necessary, but it also has the ability to create more extremists, which can lead to more controversies. The question is this: is it better to become narrow minded in our filter bubbles or to be overwhelmed and unable to process the information presented?

The Bubbles in My Life

Bubbles are things in life that have brought bliss to many.  Most people associate them with their past and/or childhood.  Some, like me, even enjoy them in their early adult lives, whether trying to entertain kids in the summer or wanting to showcase bubble blowing abilities to a younger, less experienced human; it's a nanny thing!  These mysterious objects appear in many colors, have many different shapes, and can even float way up into the sky, a phenomenon that still bewilders young minds. 

Because these objects are so often associated with memories of youthful days, they can also bring back an essence of safety and comfort.  Nothing makes one wish more for diaper-wearing days and not having a care in the world than memories of home --- a place where your worries were passed on to your parents.  Danger was never an issue because the walls of your home were like a gate, allowing only certain people, objects, values and issues to enter.  Fear was kept at bay because the only arguments that broke out were ones related to selfishness or not doing one's duties.  These are all factors that can define a "home bubble", but they can also be used to describe a media tool called the "filter bubble".
Filter Bubble - the intellectual isolation that can occur when websites make use of algorithms to selectively assume the information a user would want to see, and then give information to the user according to this assumption (Technopedia.com)

These filter bubbles that have been incorporated into different media sites provide a specialized experience for each viewer.  As mentioned in the Sustein reading, filtering is the right option to select in terms of preventing brain overload, but it is how media uses the filter bubble that makes people have a love/hate relationship with certain media.  With these algorithms automatically implemented into the sites, media presents the information to you in a way that shows you only what they think you want to see.  This is just like a bubble that encloses and keeps whatever is inside safe from the dangers and distractions of the world.  This is all great until you get to the bubble and ...  

Now the world can throw anything and everything at you because there is nothing there to filter out things related to what  you like, believe or want to see.  The concept can be terrifying and cause many to have anxiety or feel overwhelmed with the magnitude of choices.   

However, as we grow up, we are encouraged to do things on our own and to make wise choices. Filter bubbles have a way of stunting our ability to learn and grow as individuals without outside help.
I, for one, have different feelings about filter bubbles.  Coming from a small town that encompasses certain morals and beliefs, I grew up learning only those things that my family, community and school chose for me.  These values were easily embedded into my life because the more people around you that believe something, especially something that you also believe, the easier it is to feel safe holding those values and also expressing them.  Once I came to college, I had a wake-up call!  I have already encountered different situations where my beliefs and morals were challenged.  No longer did I have a whole community to back me up, but only a small group of friends similar to the ones I had back home.
During those trying occurrences, I was able to use dissoi logoi because I had a strong belief on the issues and also had the tools and knowledge I needed for support.  This is one reason I am in favor of filter bubbles.  They allow me to build on certain beliefs or ideas without interferences.  This is also a reason why I don't like filter bubbles.  Because I grew up around people very similar to myself, I have never experienced dissoi logoi to its fullest extent. The closest I have gotten to participating in a real argument about critical issues was in a debate in a government class.  Even then, the students I was debating had similar beliefs and feelings to mine; they were just chosen to defend the other side in this debate.
In terms of media, I do not have a definite position on the use of filter bubbles.  When I am listening to my music on Pandora, I am entertaining myself or wanting to procrastinate . . . usually the latter.  During these times I want to be able to listen to music that I enjoy without having to endure a bad song now and then.  This is where the lovely filter bubble comes in.  If I don't like a song, I can click on the "thumbs down" icon, and Pandora will never play that song again.  If I click on the "thumbs up" icon, Pandora will remember not only that I like that song but also that I might like similar songs.  Then each of my stations will be tailored to my likes and dislikes in each genre.  That is why Pandora is one of my favorite music apps.  (And no, I don't want to try Spotify.)
So far the filter bubble has, for the most part, been a good friend, but there are times when I am convinced that the filter bubble is the devil's creation.  Once upon a time not so long ago, I was in junior high . . . shocking, I know!  During those relentless middle school years, I set up a Facebook account.  I was so excited, but also clueless about it.  After adding a few friends and posting a few pictures, I found my true love --- the "like" button.  I went from a few "likes" a week to an obsession.  I was in over my head.  For anything that sounded cool or I thought was in any way relevant to my life, I clicked the "like" button.  Sadly, I now have over 1500 likes.
Now that I have acknowledged being a pathetic junior high kid, I want to explain how the filter bubble comes into play.  On Facebook, the filter bubble takes all your "likes" (and other posts and pictures) and tries to formulate what people and pages to show you.  Well, now that they have invented this handy filter bubble, my Facebook has turned into a nightmare of ads and terrible posts from the pages I thought were amazing six years ago.  I would like to see the wedding photos that my cousin posted or the family vacation pictures that my friend took, but instead I am stuck with viewing a terrible comic strip from the page "water has a taste you can't explain". . .  Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and educate my twelve-year-old self!  The day I might eventually enjoy Facebook again is the day it goes out of style.
I know that many people have similar mixed emotions about filter bubbles.  Some days I jump on the filter bubble train and ride it into the sunset.  Other days I want to be a bubble poppin' boy. 

(Spongebob is always relevant.)
Whether the media ever figures out that the filter bubble isn't the most ingenious idea . . . and I doubt that they will . . .life will still go on.  I have several different bubbles in my life, and they have shaped and continue to shape who I am, whether through technology or through face-to-face  conversations.  Bubbles are always going to be mysterious things.  They are controlled by the humans blowing them, yet they are uncontrollable in how they form or where they will land.  My overall feeling is that I would like to keep  bubbles in soap form unless I choose to incorporate them into my life in other ways.
Just an after thought - - - If I ever meet a Facebook or Google representative, I might suggest that they could always make the whole filter bubble idea an option instead of a set-in-stone algorithm. 

How to Control the Facebook Algorithm