Monday, June 14, 2010

I don’t know much about art but...


Lev Grossman in Time, on allowing technology to make our artistic choices:
Recommendation engines introduce a new voice into the cultural conversation, one that speaks to us when we’re at our most vulnerable, which is to say at the point of purchase. What is that voice saying? Recommendation engines aren’t designed to give us what we want. They’re designed to give us what they think we want, based on what we and other people like us have wanted in the past. Which means they don’t surprise us. They don’t take us out of our comfort zone. A recommendation engine isn’t the spouse who drags you to an art film you wouldn't have been caught dead at but then unexpectedly love. It won’t force you to read the 18th century canon. It’s no substitute for stumbling onto a great CD just because it has cool cover art. Recommendation engines are the enemy of serendipity and Great Books and the avant-garde. A 19th century recommendation engine would never have said, If you liked Monet, you’ll love Van Gogh! Impressionism would have lasted forever.

3 comments:

Annie said...

Hmm. I never paid much attention before, but recently Amazon recommended 3 books which look absolutely great, ('Deschooling Society', 'Dumbing Us Down' & 'The Pedagogy of the Oppressed') and 3 authors (Paulo Freire,Ivan Illich and John Taylor Gatto) who sound right up my alley, that I hadn't heard of before. That's not bad for a machine.

blackwatertown said...

A broken or malfunctioning recommendation machine might do you trick. You still get the prompt, but it's not what was intended.
I like people like that.

Tim Footman said...

Maybe I’m just unlucky with Amazon, Annie. I get regular suggestions that I might be interested in purchasing books by Tim Footman.

Like taking all the name tags off the Christmas presents, BWT. Everything is wanted, but not necessarily by the recipient.