ASR Installment 2: Of Circles, Webs, and Bubbles
Welcome to the second installment of the 2011 All-School Read! Like the summer itself, things are starting to warm up (at last) in ASR land. Before we get to the next installment, and to demonstrate the hoped-for-interactive nature of this year's ASR, we invite you to take a look at the first (essay-length and essay-quality) student reaction to the first ASR installment.
We hope others will share their thoughts and reactions as well. We will only publish online with consent. Looking ahead, whereas the first installment (and all future odd-numbered installments) centered on content from external sources, this installment (and all future even-numbered installments) centers on content generated primarily from internal sources (members of the MX community). The more virtual dialogue, the better.
Here's the general theme for this installment: at Middlesex, we worry sometimes about a certain loss of perspective that might happen within “the MX bubble,” and we work to stay connected to larger worlds. Turns out we aren’t the only ones with bubble worries—the “Filter Bubble,” described and elaborated upon below, presents a modern challenge to connection and perspective. Here, we will consider the ways in which the digital web “out there” and our life around the circle “in here” can work together to puncture the bubbles that limit us.
Browse through the 3 selections below. It is important to view the TED video, “The Filter Bubble,” first for context.
After reading, please visit the Reactions page and share your thoughts.
If you are interested in some tangential links to the ASR, you can find additional articles and resources on the Further Reading page.
Tune in on July 11th for the next (third) installment.
Backstory: The ASR (yes, now a fully personified entity) asked Jordan Williams, departing faculty member and web ambassador, for a thought-piece related to the ASR (which became selection #2, below). Jordan’s thinking and writing was guided by a TED video by Eli Pariser called, “Beware online ‘filter bubbles.’” (Coincidentally, Sharon Smith, Jordan’s successor forwarded the same link to the same talk to ASR).
On the speaker and the idea: Eli Pariser traces his internet roots to organizational efforts in response to 9/11. He went on to work with MoveOn.org, becoming the president of its Board. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “The Filter Bubble” refers to the tendency of certain search and filter algorithms to isolate the user in a “bubble” of his or her own interests, tendencies, and settings.
Quotations from the talk:
“A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” (attributed to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook)
“We really need the internet to be that thing that we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together….and it’s not going to do that if it leaves us all isolated in a web of one.”
Backstory: The ASR is not above soliciting feedback on commission. As mentioned above, the ASR politely asked Jordan Williams for a sort of exit statement on technology since Mr. Williams knows a lot about online matters, Middlesex matters, and things that matter in general. What ASR got (for the low price of a dining hall meal) was a fanciful account of Mr. Williams’s engagement with various online suitors, from Google to Facebook to Twitter.
On the writer and the idea: Jordan Williams worked for 2 years as Middlesex’s Manager of School Website and Online Media. He left us for a real-life institutional suitor named “Business School.” Here, he writes about the personal connections and disconnections that happen in relationship with various agents of the .com world. In other words, he writes about the emotional threats of “The Filter Bubble.”
Quotations from the reading:
“I won’t ever forget Google or everything she has given me over the years. But we talk less frequently now.”
“People kept telling me (Twitter) was a waste of time. They would ask, 'what’s someone like you see in a girl with so little to say?'”
Read A Digital Love Affair →
Backstory: Yes, Middlesex still has a library. And books. And people who help other people connect with those books—old-fashioned “search engines.” To ASR’s delight, one of the first responses (OK, the very first response) to the first installment of “The Circle and the Network” came from Zaiga Alksnitis.
On the writer and the idea: Zaiga is our Reference Librarian, and she has worked at Middlesex since 2007, helping to manage the information bubble at Middlesex known as the Warburg Library. Her “shameless plug for libraries” is actually a shameless plug for a critical and informed way of approaching information. Along the way, she also talks about Facebook, Virginia Heffernan’s blog, and lost souls.
Quotations from the reading:
“A library worth its salt will be involved in developing both 'information literacy and 'media literacy'.”
“If you do not value critical thinking, you will not bother to try thinking critically.”