The Filter Bubble and the Case for Useless Knowledge

My avid advocation for interdisciplinary studies is very well-know…to my friends. It’s really a problem I’ve personally dealt with and have come up against when deciding what job I want to have.

You see, I’m neither right nor left-brained; I’m smack dab in the middle of the Type A and Type B personality; I am an alpha geek and a uber artiste. My sticky fingers are in every pie imaginable. I’ve studied music  since I was six and built webpages since I was 12.

And I love it. I want to keep doing those things I love even if they’re so far removed from the other.

My philosophy on life is that no knowledge is useless knowledge. This was a constant argument in my graduate class at UNR: Why take a class on building Flash games when I’m not going to be building Flash games in my career? Why do I need to know the history of journalistic and democratic thought and theory since the 1920s if that doesn’t apply to today?

And I’d counter that no knowledge is useless knowledge because the things you create tomorrow are the aggregate of things you learn today.*

That’s what I pulled from Eli Pariser’s TED Talk, showcased today on

You see, it’s this constant evaluation of the usefulness of information to the individual that puts us into this trap, and (tip of the hat to Dr. Ryfe), fragments society in the way Putnam describes in “Bowling Alone.”

In education, it’s resulted in hyper-specialization where engineers don’t believe in climate change (true story) because they can’t be bothered to pop their heads out of their computer programs.

In art, it’s created Ke$ha. And other money-centered artists (I’m looking at you pop artists). Because we’re so busy navel-gazing that we’ve lost touch with everyone else and I’ll have a post elaborating more on this soon.

We drive cars because god forbid we have to subject ourselves to the smells of other people and the world around us.

In a way, Google’s and Facebook’s filtering system is just an extension of what we do anyway.  Yes we want democracy and a system that runs smoothly that gives equal advantage to everyone – as long as I don’t have to leave my cozy little bubble.

News editors do get a rather bad rap for deciding what “goes to print” and what doesn’t. But the newsies I know who engage online in the social media sphere don’t believe in the filtering the Facebook and Google are up to. They want to use those tools to get people’s hands dirty, shoveling out the sadness and planting hope.

I really hope Eli and the Filter Bubble find a way around it. And if I can be of service, please tag me in.



*Thank you Prof. Larry Dailey, Dr. David Ryfe, Dr. Ed Lenert and Chris Bowman for those classes.


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