Monday, March 20, 2017
Music the Internet is hiding from you
Recent compelling rail trip listening included the new CD La Voix de la Passion (Voice of Passion) from the young Syrian singer and oud player Waed Bouhassoun. In 2015 I wrote about her previous album L'Âme du luth (Soul of the oud) and on this new disc she juxtaposes settings of Nabataean poetry from southern Syria and Arab poetry from the cultural Indian summer of Al-Andalusia - sample via this link.
In his 2011 book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You Eli Pariser explained the dangers of the little-understood filter bubbles created by the personalisation algorithms used by Facebook, Google and other major Internet players. These algorithms maximise web traffic by personalising - in other words skewing - content to pander to the known likes of individual web users. In very simple terms this means that clicking on or 'liking' Facebook statuses about Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla means your news feed will be skewed to Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla-related content, and mentioning Jonas Kaufmann in your Gmail messages will push Jonas Kaufmann-related results to the top of your Google searches . But it also means that as very few readers will have googled Syrian oud music or 'liked' statuses mentioning Waed Bouhassoun, this post about a very fine musician - female to boot - will receive minimal exposure on social media. And this is just one example: because the work of many other deserving musicians from the Western and other traditions is also hidden by the ubiquitous bubble filters. Moreover selective filtering is not confined to the Internet giants.
Eli Pariser describes how "In the filter bubble, there's less room for the chance encounters that bring insight and learning" and how "Creativity is often sparked by the collision of ideas from different disciplines and cultures". On both sides of the Atlantic there is currently much righteous indignation about restrictions on the movement of populace across borders that helps spark these vital collisions of ideas. Yet we all (yes, this post is bidding for 30 seconds of social media fame) aid and abet a technology that covertly and very profitably suppresses this vital collision of ideas. The $3 million cost of Donald Trump's weekend Mar-a-Lago getaways and uninformed guesses at the cost of Brexit are the lifeblood of social media; but the filter bubble-driven annual profits of Facebook - $10.2 billion - and Google - $6.8 billion - hardly merit a mention. We live in very strange times.
No review samples used in this post. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.