DQ: Search and Personalization

While reading Stalder and Mayer’s article on “The Second Index,” I realized that in my Information Science classes, when discussing search engines, we’ve learned a lot about how PageRank works, but not how personal information is factored in. Is this because those algorithms are proprietary, or do we just not focus on it due to the course material? Does focusing on PageRank make it easier to sidestep the messier social and privacy implications of factoring in personal information within the context of an engineering or programming class?

The other thing about personalized results is that sometimes I don’t want to see only what I want – the ability to metaphorically “browse the bookshelves” is becoming harder as more personalization occurs. There’s an argument that indivduals’ gain greater perspective, and that society gains a common discourse by having certain things in common. For instance, the original YouTube homepage would show the same featured videos to everyone, but now, when logged in, the homepage videos are highly personalized, and I find that they are often within the same little bubble of topics, and I am not recommended new videos outside my small sphere. Does this have economic implications as well as social and cultural ones? Might I be bored with my small circle of videos without seeing anything new and be tempted to leave the service?

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