global village" emerged the phrase "global citizens," used to describe people who think, behave and act in similar ways. Experts like McLuhan and Alvin Toffler ushered in the era with descriptors that seemed to fit perfectly - "Future Shock" and "Future Arriving Yesterday," among others.Global Village, a phrase we use so frequently these days, was coined by the media expert, Marshall McLuhan. It seemed like the perfect phrase to describe the world created by a growing body of interconnected online users of the time. From "
Logically, interconnectedness should only grow with time, creating a form of intense, almost bland, homogeneity. However, recent online trends, including search engines like Google and social networks like Facebook seem to have broken the global village down into sects or tribes of users who rally around common interests, heritage or affinity. Even in a seemingly homogenous world, personalization and heterogeneity thrive. Most services, from search to to newsfeeds, seem to be personalized to suit the individual user's need. Almost all categories of online usage seem to be moving towards hyper-personalization, all based on the individual's social trending, search, and unique, personal, browsing data.
Keeping users in the filter bubble benefits the companies that do so. Indeed, a study in online buying behavior, by a group of Wharton researchers, proved that customization increases the sales of products online, sometimes as much as 50%. The study showed that popular online selling platforms like iTunes and Netflix benefited from personalizing recommendations.
Research in the area has far reaching consequences, not just for online companies and users, but also for the future of online interactions. Future innovation in the field will be driven by increasing customization and the attempt to get to know every individual user as intimately as possible.
Interesting to note is that the growth of the filter bubble has not yet replaced good-old water cooler debate and word of mouth. As individuals we tend to seek out new experiences and go far as we can to find them. However, there is a small measure of anxiety about growing personalization leading to the end of commonality. So far, individual users are safe from the filter bubble. Users want to relate to each other on the basis of common interests and background and will seek out peers, both online and offline.
Thankfully, hyper-personalization hasn't taken over our lives yet, and thinkers like Pariser look toward the future with optimism. Online portals and businesses, he hopes, will evolve a body of self-regulatory rules that will be based on creating and maintaining public trust. Writers like Daniel Terdiman, believe that these bodies will realize that they need to be the new custodians of public trust. What is certain so far, is that global village vs. hyper-personalization is at the heart of the debate of future online trends.
Perhaps, the challenge for the future of the online world is finding the balance with the laissez fair spirit of the Web, which let it reach out to billions of users and personalization. Finding the road to profits and growth, while upholding the principles of democratic equality is important - for all of us.
Photo by Georgios Michalogiorgakis