Your online presence is set up to reinforce what you already believe, so how do you know if it is right or wrong? If you live in a chamber only “echoing” back your own thoughts, where do new ideas come from?

As the desire for “customer satisfaction” increases, and the capability of online personalisation continues to try and deliver exactly what you want, when you want- what you get is based only on what you have already done. How many times have you had the experience of searching for and buying a particular item, only to find that every display advert for weeks afterwards encourages you to buy the exact same thing. You’ve already bought it - you don’t need another one!

There is a real danger in this as it removes the serendipitous opportunity for the new to emerge. An echo chamber only feeding back the thoughts and ideas you like and agree with is a subtle subversive force reinforcing your beliefs whether they are right or wrong.

Late in 2017, I happened to come across the concept of an echo chamber in an art magazine discussing how artists widen their creative references or risk being caught in a bubble. Of course, many interests or professions reinforce their own beliefs and norms. This is fine when you just want to feel good about your viewpoints, not so good if you are searching for the truth or a balanced view, or perhaps that view is emergent and in the minority.

This is pertinent today given that most of your google searches use past searches to inform the results presented to you. Also if you only follow people who you like and agree with, you only get fed what you enjoy and know. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A sinister development of the echo chamber has emerged out of the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook investigations which continue with various revelations. By managing the sources of information of individuals, what that individual believes is also manipulated.

Effectively tweaking the echo.

We thought we could rely on the “science” of our information sources. But just like the echo, the science of our digital information doesn’t work the way we thought it did. 

The likely reaction? An increasing scepticism of content; further clampdown on the way personal data is used; or little change as our need to share social data is already ingrained in the fabric of daily living? It will be interesting to see how the story play out.

Any firms happily using data gathered from their customers, need to think quite carefully about what data they are using and whether they have a right to use it. Done correctly this should continue to offer the huge opportunities for service improvement offered by digital developments, but with an added sense of responsibility and trust.