Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Could a Search Engine Improve Dismal Listening Skills?

With all this talk about “filter bubbles”, we have no reason to argue about that the internet is catered to us. If we click on posts about funny cat videos, then the internet will suggest more cat videos. If a person tends to support more liberal ideas, then Facebook will promote their liberal friends’ posts. Overall, we aren’t forced to encounter opinions that are not our own. By avoiding different ideas, we are becoming more radical and less open to new ideas. As a whole, society is becoming awful listeners. 

I found an article while wasting time the other day at lunch about this new search engine called “Yossarian”, the metaphorical search engine.

Read the article here

While still called a search engine, Yossarian is a lot different than our friend, Google. Here’s a visual representation on how Yossarian works.

Instead of getting a list of websites related to a search term, Yossarian reveals metaphors created by other users to get the readers to think about different perspectives. For example, if I were to Google “depression”,  links to sites about the symptoms and signs of depression come up. But when I searched depression on Yossarian, I got this image.
Some Yossarian user compared the word “depression” to a picture of an ejection seat. This got me thinking about what this specific user was trying to say about depression. How was the user using the symbol, in this case an image, to explain his or her view on depression.  My thoughts were that depression is feeling like there is no escape but to eject yourself from your usual life. I picture in my mind that those who battle depression hide in sadness away from everyone else. A few minutes later, I discovered I could see what the user was trying to evoke by hovering my cursor over the picture. I then was presented this image. 
@A_Parrintly formed the simile: "Depression is like crashing. Depression is the inabiltiy to fly, seeing only one way out -- ejection from the pilot seat." We did agree that depression is comparable to ejecting yourself from your life because you see no other options.  Personally, the word "crashing" wasn't in my initial self-discussion about the image. The user forced me to think about depression in a new way. It made me use my creative side to connect depression and a picture of an ejection seat. Yossarian is actually promoting creativity on the internet, by showing users all sorts of different comparisons for words users already have a pretty solid definition for. 

Here are some other examples I ran across that caught my attention. 

Now while these images are neat comparisons, you may be wondering how the relate to what this blog is truly about. If we are to look at the evidence being presented to us, the internet is resulting in more radical opinions and beliefs. Facebook is hiding opinions they think you won't agree with. Flipboard is tailoring news to things that fall in your belief system. Google is filtering results to match things you previously clicked on and is hiding results that hold potentially new ideas and new perspectives. This phenomenon has become known as the "filter bubble", an area of the internet where only your opinions are seen. These algorithms which filter results result in polarization more severe then society has seen in the past. With opinions becoming more radical, the art of dissoi logoi, the art of debating two sides, is becoming irrelevant. People just don't accept the other side of the argument anymore because of this radical polarization. People refuse to listen.

However, websites like Yossarian, can open this mind up to this concept of listening to the other side. While these comparisons may seem like a small thing, they can potentially begin to revert the effects of the "filter bubble." Yossarian is allowing users to see other's perspectives. It is allowing us to see how other people make connection between words we see everyday. If we come across a post on Yossarian which gets us thinking, we are opening our mind up to another perspective. We are listening to the other side. I believe if we continue to use websites like Yossarian, we as individuals can expand our spectrum of opinions, improve our listening skills, and potentially fight this plague of polarization. 

Feel free to check out Yossarian for yourself at

"Can A Search Engine Make You More Creative?" Fast Company. N.p., 22 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.

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