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TED Talk on algorithms and excessive customization: Learning opportunities in complexity

A fantastic TED talk about how information is filtered and how this affects our aspirational selves. How filters (both conscious and automated ones) affect our sense of self and our sense of place within society, how we don’t always see what we need to see, but rather what automated gatekeepers believe what we want to see. This is essentially the downside of relentless customization, this lack of introduction of contradictory information, information that challenges existing worldviews or expands cognitive capacity. 

As I always do, there are limitless learning manifestations that I immediastely gravitate towards. How filters can be introduced consciously based on immediate need as well as a sense of actualized activity, activity designed to introduce conflicting information, information that in turn forces us to reconfigure our worldviews, reanalyze a particular stance, or even merely overwhelms us. The downside of customization is excessive predictability and the need for systematic randomness (not a contradiction in terms). The need for complexity in terms of aggregared information sources, information sources that challenge a complex construction of knowledge. To know that a theory can still be valid and not work all the time, that there are ghosts in the cognitive machine that influence understanding and behavior.

Learning activity for a modern learner. Design your algorithm.  Account for categories of information that you want to filter. Pivot points in your search for types of information, tone of information, source of information, authority of information. Design an algorithm to fit certain learning outcome. Reverse engineer an algorithm to establish a valid set of resources for learning. Do it before it is done to you, for you, without you being challenged or improved by the process. How is this not a rich example of information literacy (reverse engineered)? Design the system that would retrieve the results that you want. 

And yes, the Netflix example is perfect. Ironman comes straight to you, unfettered. Roshomon is perpetually jostled about the queue. The difference between our desire for entertainment and our pursuit of self-actualization. 

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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