[Humanist] 28.857 automatization of habit

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Mar 27 07:26:12 CET 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 857.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 26 Mar 2015 07:05:13 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: automatization of habit

This from an Amazon "Fire TV Stick" advert:

> The more you use Fire TV Stick, the more accurate ASAP becomes,
> dynamically adapting to your viewing habits.

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? But, as with Google's moulding of search 
results to the search habits of the individual, does this artifically 
semi-intelligent technique result in fewer opportunities to change your 
mind, your behaviour? To be surprised? To be serendipitous? 

In the mid 1980s Thomas Malone and others at MIT, responding (as I 
recall) to a U.S. government initiative to devise some way of coping 
with infoglut, devised "Information Lens". This system was designed to 
filter out online information for the user based on a self-specified 
profile. (For details, see Malone et al, "The Information Lens: An 
Intelligent System for Information Sharing in Organizations", in the 
Internet Archive.) So, in effect, it boxed the user in by allowing him 
or her to see only consciously determined items.

Is not the automatic construction of a gradually more efficient filter 
based on information-seeking behaviour the same thing, only 
worse, more dangerous?


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
Group, University of Western Sydney

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