Thursday, February 09, 2012

Weblining - what you'll miss

In the previous post I discussed how the use of the results of the analysis of individuals' aggregated data and what Lori Andrews termed "weblining." 

Andrews sees the limitation of chance encounters as well when considering the results of a demographic segment's data analysis in targeted advertisement. "When young people in poor neighborhoods are bombarded with advertisements for trade schools, will they be more likely than others their age to forgo college? And when women are shown articles about celebrities rather than stock market trends, will they be less likely to develop financial savvy?" 

In other words, media content tailored to the individual's preferences may lead to a lack of exposure to new products as well as ideas and view points. This area of negative impact from this use of data aggregation analysis is what I and others before me call the loss of serendipity. defines serendipity as "an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident."

Lenny Rachitsky, in his TED Talk entitled Losing Serendipity shares that we may be denying ourselves our next favorite thing by limiting our exposure by what we like on Facebook or the narrow news feeds we select and hear.


Could it be that with targeted advertising and by following only those viewpoints and ideas with which we already agree and are comfortable with that we are losing out on what we may discover and/or may be beneficial for us? Could it be possible that a new type of food we will love could be missed if we always went to the same restaurant? What about that next song you will not hear because your current music tastes reflected in your Facebook posts limits what music advertisements Facebook provides to you? 

Does this mean that we should not utilize data to target advertising? Of course not. Data analysis and the discoveries it provides offers too much potential to ignore. The question in my view is, how can we use technology to increase an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident? 

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