Filtered or unfiltered?

November 25, 2008

Do you let your search engine of choice filter your search results? I don’t. I use Google and I go out of my way in the Preferences area to turn off the default “moderate safe search.” Why? It’s not that the occasional surprise explicit text or image is the highlight of my day. It’s more because the idea of it rankles me.

In a sense, the internet itself is an enormous document representing everything that we* collectively care about, sans the many filters found in older, professionally-produced media outlets. For this reason and others, it represents an important sea change in publishing and communications history. Never before could we see what the total universe of human interest was. We are sometimes shocked at the prurient or hateful things that thrive there, even as we shout hallelujah that our own skinny-tail pet interests are finally being represented.

Me, I think what I get out of it is mostly meta. It’s not so much that I’m participating in media about some rare and traditionally underrepresented pursuit. It’s more that I feel I’m learning something important culturally with my typing fingers always on the pulse of the global internet culture’s constantly changing beat. It’s intoxicating. And invoking old media rules about what can and cannot be viewed would be an obstruction to this knowledge.

So, click. Moderate safe search off.

(* When I say “we” I don’t mean the entire human population. I mean everyone with access to the internet.)


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