1. A couple of articles that follow-up on the filter bubble phenomenon we posted on last week, both from The NY Times. The first is an editorial by Eli Pariser, “When The Internet Thinks It Knows You” and the second a slightly broader look at the issue, “The Trouble With The Echo Chamber Online.” While the issue is clearly an important one, the solutions being proposed – i.e. programmed diversity  – strikes me as a tad shallow. That is, there’s clearly a resistance to the idea that we might actually be culpable in our selective listening/browsing in a way that no algorithm is going to be able to compensate for. And in any case, as much as I might wish it were so, I suspect the Internet has never had the sort of diversifying effect that Pariser is trying to defend; it has, however, always done a great job of allowing like-minded folks, for better(!) or worse, find each other. Which is not to condone or promote the echo chamber effect – clearly we need to be aware that this is happening. I just highly doubt the advertising dollars at stake here are minimal. A quick quote from the second article:

“In a effort to single out users for tailored recommendations or advertisements, personalization tends to sort people into categories that may limit their options. It is a system that cocoons users, diminishing the kind of exposure to opposing viewpoints necessary for a healthy democracy, says Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist and the author of “You Are Not a Gadget.”

“People tend to get into this echo chamber where more and more of what they see conforms to the idea of who some software thinks they are — like a Nascar dad who likes samurai swords,” Mr. Lanier says. “You start to become more and more like the image of you because that is what you are seeing.”

2. Very interesting post over at The Next Web, “The Top 5 Regrets People Have on Their Deathbed.” Compiled by a palliative care worker, they are, ht JD:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

3. In all the hubbub surrounding PZ’s 60th, we gave Bob Dylan’s 70th short shrift. Christianity Today ran a wonderful article on the possible interpretations of the amazing Dylan photo to the left, “Dylan at the Foot of the Cross.” The author goes so far as tosay, “Ultimately, we see in Dylan what we want to see. We find in his songs what we want to find…” before concluding,

God is present in the picture to the extent that the crucifixion scene includes dialogue with the Father in heaven. It is God as mediated through Christian discourse, and this God is, in the language of the photo, above Dylan and behind all he does. Dylan often mentions God in his songs, and though he rarely attempts to define what the term means, he still points us toward that vague Other. Particularly in the post-John Wesley Harding period, one commentator observes, “Whether speaking of, to, for, or about God, … Dylan is consistently Godconcerned.”

4. Also on the music tip, The A/V Club published a terrific piece on Michael Jackson’s Bad this past week, which Steven Hyden outlines at great length the unbearable burden of Law that Thriller represented:

Along with being pop music’s biggest star and one of the most famous men on the planet, Michael Jackson was also a great, late 20th-century corporation, responsible for creating a ubiquitous brand and complicit in all the underhanded shenanigans intended to extend and prolong his cultural dominance.  Like many high-powered companies that ended up failing in the first decade of the 21st century, Michael Jackson faltered because what he was selling was ultimately a lie, though it was so seductive that even he fell for it… Jackson’s lie was that Thriller wasn’t a fluke of history, that he really was capable of not only making another album that would go on to sell 29 million copies in the U.S., and tens of millions more overseas, but that he could actually will it to happen. When Bad failed to out-do Thriller, Jackson only amped up the bluster, insisting that the media refer to him by the self-applied moniker “The King Of Pop” when promoting the release of 1991’s Dangerous.

5. A couple other exciting bits of music news, particularly for fans of arena rock. Today brought the new Coldplay single, “Every Teardrop is A Waterfall,” and earlier this week U2 debuted their first Spiderman song on iTunes, “Rise Above.” Both are respectably strong efforts. Also, the first videos from the Pulp reunion have surfaced, and man oh man, they are hardcore.

6. An interesting post on Divine Caroline looking at the budding pseudoscience known as graphology and exploring the question “Is Our Personality Written in our Handwriting?”. While clearly a little dubious, the stuff on signatures and identity is pretty interesting, as is this:

If the baseline slopes upward as you write from left to right (as it does in the picture below), graphologists would say that you have a positive outlook and are generally enthusiastic and determined. If it slopes downward, that suggests depression, lethargy, or a tendency toward moodiness.

7. “Tackling Temptation: Is It Better To Resist or Give in?” on Get Rich Slowly makes for some pretty fun/offbeat reading on the topic of ego depletion, ht JD.

8. Finally a quick housekeeping note: We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on the feature slider at the top, but I’m not sure we’ve ever spelled out that many of the older posts are being edited/expanded for inclusion. For example, the Seinfeld piece that went in earlier today is five times the length of the original post. Just sayin. Now, if you’ll excuse me, those pretzels are making me thirsty…