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The Temporal Bias Of The Web


In this interview Maria Popova talks about how she worries about the temporal bias of the web, and the fact that so much of it is based around a vertical chronology with the latest stuff floating around at the top whilst the older stuff sinks towards the bottom. "It suggests", she says,"that just because something is more recent, it's more relevant; yet, in culture, the best ideas are timeless, they have no expiration date".

Given the emphasis attributed to recency as a factor within both search engine and social network algorithms, and the apparent bias toward the new and the novel in real-time sharing environments, perhaps she has a point. Something like Is It Old, pictured above (currently in stasis - a victim of the Twitter API changes), existed because of our predeliction towards attributing more value to things that are new and unique. 

The opportunity of-course, as Maria goes on to point out, is that the web gives us remarkable access to almost infinite information. As part of a new breed of professional curator, Maria herself is uniquely good at surfacing cultural gems that are not necessarily contemporary. So, as content discovery changes, if much social and algorithmic curation tends toward favouring the recent, perhaps the role of professional curation in surfacing ideas, knowledge and concepts from the past becomes ever greater?

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