The Tyranny of the Filter Bubble and the Future of Public Space

The Tyranny of the Filter Bubble and the Future of Public Space
Granary Square, London / © Alexander Edward

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The tyranny of the filter bubble and the future of public space
Granary Square, London / © Alexander Edward

Public spaces that are for some people, for some of the time, will kill urbanity. Real cities have many open and unscripted places where otherness is encountered, and where non-consumers are also citizens

While using online platforms, we are generally served up information suggested by algorithms that is based on traces of our previous searches, conversations, purchases and locations. A simple example: “hey, you might want to follow ArchDaily on Twitter, since you already follow Dezeen.”

The result is a “filter bubble”: we rarely encounter anything that is outside our comfort zone, we only engage with people who share our worldview and we often end up simply being sold more stuff that we already have, all the while making sure that our behaviour fits the image that we want others to have of us. Different search results for different people make for cultural and intellectual isolation.

Public spaces in cities risk a similar destiny. Cities are becoming archipelagos of fragmented and isolated islands, separating different groups of people. The more wealthy parts are increasingly designed to death for reasons of security, efficiency and retail, while CCTV, police, private guards and mobile phone tracking systems keep a close eye on us. Because we don’t want to get in trouble or simply don’t have time for it, we all police ourselves and try to behave like middle class consumers. Limited in their diversity of people and functions, and closely controlled, public spaces increasingly minimise the potential for unexpected encounters and limit the range of possible uses. […]


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