Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Uncanny Valley of Personalization

Sarah M. Watson, for the Atlantic:

Uncanny personalization occurs when the data is both too close and not quite close enough to what we know about ourselves. This is rooted in Sigmund Freud’s famous treatment of the uncanny, which he traced to the feelings associated with encountering something strangely familiar. In Freud’s original writing, the uncanny is the unheimlich—literally translated as “unhomely,” and the opposite of heimlich, which is the familiar, comfortable feeling of being at home.

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A friend’s Facebook status update captures this idea well: “I am never quite sure if Facebook’s advertising algorithms know nothing about me, or more than I can admit to myself.”