Bubble Trouble

Is Web personalization turning us into solipsistic twits?

By Jacob Weisberg

Eli Pariser. Click image to expand.Eli Pariser

The first conversation I ever had about the Internet was in 1993 with Robert Wright, who was then a colleague at the New Republic. This "Net" thing was going to be a big deal, I remember Bob telling me, but it could create a few problems. One was that it was going to empower crazies, since geographically diffuse nut jobs of all sorts would be able to find each other online. Another was that it could hurt democratic culture by encouraging narrow-minded folk to burrow deeper into their holes. Wright spelled out those concerns in an article that stands as a model of prescience and a delightful time-capsule. ("People who ‘post’ on the Net’s many different bulletin boards—its ‘newsgroups’—know that their words can be seen from just about any chunk of inhabited turf on this planet.")

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