September 12, 2017 (769 Days Old)
(De)personalization
One troubling trend in electronic service delivery is the push towards
personalization
custom settings
Limiting or organizing information based on stated user preferences, interests OR based on historical records and tracking of user activities by a machine learning system.
.
From algrothimically customized shopping experiences or history-driven news feeds to topic-based subscription models that
narrow-cast
portmanteau
A deliberately limited selection from a much larger collection of material meant for sharing, such as news articles, podcasts, videos, or social media posts.
a selection from the user's stated interests, personalization comes in many forms.
This push seems to be so far along that many of us are completely unaware of the constricted scope of what we information we now have access to.
Lessons From Open Gov
Working in government-based
information architecture
Web IA
The effort to organize information efficiently around a standard model that meets the needs of a defined user group.
has given me a broad respect for the value of openly depersonalizing information delivery.
Rather, the concepts of "open government" and "open data" are rooted in a philosophy of transparency, deliberate or otherwise.
In fact, it has been my experience that open government as a philosophy for information architecture drives the design of electronic service delivery away from personalization.
Locked and Blocked
Through personalization there is a trend away from this kind of transparency, instead in favour of customization or profiling.
It is at odds with creating complete and un-obscured lists of government documents, for example, to instead pursue a model where users are shown abbreviated selections based on profiling or past activity.
Transparency as a guiding principle cannot lead anyone building a model of information delivery to the limitations locked down by personalization ideals.
The baby with the Bathwater
The advantage of personalization is of course that the mental work of choosing is shifted away from the user and towards the software.
In designing any interface there is always an effort made to remove the burden of parsing, sorting, categorizing, or generally understanding a
viewport
interface jargon
The currently visible area of view on an electronic interface, such as a window, browser tab, or app.
away from the user.
The burden should be carried by the design or the interface.
Personalization takes this a step further and limits choice based on an interpretation of wants or needs.
The Downsides
The disadvantages of personalization have reared up in the past few years in the form of ideological isolationism.
Narrow-casting of news and media has led to what is generally agreed to be a
silo-effect
metaphor
Like the tall, narrow tube of its namesake, someone who is is in a "silo" may struggle to see information, ideas, opinions, or facts that don't exist within the same narrow point of view.
.
Algorithms indifferent to the effects of their calculations drive users to consume more information that matches their personalized profile: articles, videos, and discussions that match a historical record.
These may exist for many reasons: user convenience, targeted marketing, or political manipulation.
Seeing Everything
There is a clear
incentive
human economics
A reward for or a driver towards a certain behavior.
for many content creators (and there patrons) to continue pursuing personalization as a design philosophy despite its flaws and social impacts.
As designers it may come down to a different kind of ideological struggle that strives for transparency through less personalization.
This shifts the burden back upon the user to sort through what may be an overwhelming quantity of information, but seeing everything may ultimately be the preferable choice.
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FooBarn is a quasi-blog where the author writes about information, communication, media, and the internet.
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