April 15, 2024

How was your experience? How the internet forces us to rate everything with stars | Lifestyle

A takeaway delivery driver rejects the tip before seeing it: “It is much better to receive a response (positive, of course) to the survey that the customer will receive by email.” A writer offers a gift (another of his books) to anyone who writes a positive review of his latest novel. A hotel insists that its guests publicly rate their stay, even – the machine does not discriminate – those who complained several times and were dissatisfied, and then there is Tinder. Tinder, like all other dating apps, doesn’t show the score assigned to each profile, but while no one – except its developers – really knows how its algorithm works, it’s clear that that number (or that array full of them) exists. and will determine the user’s path through the application.

Although the image of the teacher armed with a red pen who corrects exams and grades his students still weighs on the collective conscience, most evaluations today are carried out in front of a screen or within a server. There are, therefore, two types: opaque ratings, such as those used by credit institutions, or those used by dating websites that have not yet dared to ask for ratings from previous dates; and those that we carry out ourselves, becoming judges and critics of each of our experiences. As the philosopher Michel Foucault anticipated in Discipline and punish (1975), beyond school we will continue to be subject to continuous, more or less explicit, examinations. And as Shoshana Zuboff has more recently developed in The era of surveillance capitalism (2020), the trend will continue. Our digital files include text designed to “assess, categorize, and predict our behavior in millions of ways we cannot know or combat.”

Accuracy and confidence: visible ratings

For small local businesses, such as the neighborhood hardware store or bakery, reviews are essential, as the company will be better positioned in search engines. Bad reviews will also weigh on the business.Images by Johner (Getty Images/Johner RF)

Each device that is connected to the Internet collects the habits of its users in the form of data that it will later use to make comparisons and predictions. That is, whenever we are online, consciously or unconsciously, we will be issuing and receiving evaluations.

Víctor Balcells is an expert in web positioning and author. He believes unconscious metrics are more important to Google than user-written reviews. “I’m referring to browsing data, such as scrolling behavior or the time it takes to leave a page.” Of course, he specifies, “in local businesses such as the neighborhood hardware store, the part in which the evaluations are integrated is fundamental and a priority, since what the search engine will return will be sheets with information about the store including maps, scores and Telephone numbers. Therefore, conscious bad reviews have a relevant impact for any website, but especially for local businesses.”

“For companies, digital image work is obsessive and very detailed – much more than analog work – thanks to the metrics they accumulate,” continues Balcells. And, regarding the internal functioning of these companies, what marketing specialist Puri Vicente recommends is “active listening”, that is, analyzing everything that is received from users. “I am a firm believer in business-customer communication because, if handled properly, a bad review can turn into something positive. In these cases, the client expects a reaction from the company in question.”

Although all experts agree that product and service rating systems are an opportunity for the company and the customer to offer and receive better service, the issue is very different when it comes to rating people. Just a month ago a European agreement was reached on the regulation of Artificial Intelligence and other similar technologies. Within that agreement, social credit systems (those that would give each member of the public a score based on their behavior, which could then affect that person’s relationship with the government) were classified as “unacceptable risks,” which Which means it is likely to be banned within the European Union.

However, having a visible score next to our first name, last name and profile photo is not unthinkable or something that only happens in competitive video games. On the contrary, it is very common in sales applications such as Vinted or Blablacar, the car sharing platform. Blablacar is an example of a symmetrical rating system that has been working satisfactorily for years because both the driver and passengers have the same ability to write about others after the trip. “The key to Blablacar,” explains Itziar García, communication director of the platform, “is trust, and that trust is closely linked to the technological element. Through a study we conducted together with Professor Arun Sundararajan, we discovered that users trust other users with positively rated profiles almost as much as friends or family, and more than co-workers or neighbors.”

In Blablacar, the most common thing – almost as a matter of etiquette – is that, if everything goes well and the shared trip ends without problems, users exchange the maximum of points and a few words of courtesy, in almost standardized formulas. The head of the company clarifies that there is always a positive experience behind these clichés and that it is up to each user to pay more attention to the score, the text of the opinions, the level of experience, or even opt only for trips with a “Superdriver.” ”, which is a new category for those who meet certain requirements. And for an evaluation system to be reliable and useful, it must be renewed based on the demands of its users, have more or less public and shared criteria, and measure more than one characteristic or magnitude. Otherwise, you will be offering meaningless figures.

What cannot be qualified: taste and imagination

Although it is sometimes flattering and many surveys include some type of remuneration (for example, a discount on the next purchase), becoming critical of all our transactions has consequences and a certain cost.Witthaya Prasongsin (Getty Images)

in his essay Distinction: a social critique of the judgment of taste (1984), the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu demonstrated that the taste or preference for some cultural products over others does not arise spontaneously, but depends on economic, work or other educational factors. Therefore, it is possible that certain evaluations of prestigious objects or experiences say more about who they value and their desire to assimilate into the dominant class than about the object itself. Additionally, Javier Moreno, mathematics teacher and author of The transparent man (available only in Spanish), warns: “Measurement through the use of stars or numbers usually obeys the emotional responses of the consumer or client. In most cases there are no explicit evaluation criteria, but rather [the surveys] “appeal to the user’s uncritical impression of their level of satisfaction.”

The mathematician and writer maintains that numerical evaluations, both invisible ones and those we make ourselves, would not be as valuable or significant as they seem because “they always hide a desire for simplification.” He is also concerned “to what extent the weighting equates the opinion of the general public with the opinions of experts. The judgment of the latter is more detailed and is inspired by objective criteria (with which one can agree or not), so it is of vital importance to qualify the numerical rating with a reasoned opinion.”

Balcells goes further and considers that our obsession with measuring everything is affecting the limits of our imagination, since, without realizing it, we would be favoring the exclusion of “the diffuse, the hybrid and the strange, which is no small thing.” Experience and thought still exceed the capacity of computer systems and, Balcells continues, “both metrics and nichification (sorting by categories understandable to robots) kill and restrict the imagination, demand specificity and “do not accept ambiguity.” Furthermore, as users intuit the operation of the digital filters in charge of disseminating the content they produce, they paradoxically adapt to them: “In terrible cases like Instagram, the dark, the strange or the unclassifiable means receiving bad metrics, so That people unconsciously tend to do what is shiny, what reveals a lot of skin and what is fast. I think we have all experienced or intuited it: the meter enslaves and unconsciously eliminates the possibility of the imaginative,” says the writer.

Although it is sometimes flattering and many surveys include some type of remuneration (for example, a discount on the next purchase), becoming critical of all our transactions has consequences and a certain cost. On the one hand, we will build healthier, transparent and trusting relationships with some users and platforms. But on the other hand, we will collaborate with the unstoppable data market, both visible and invisible, that has turned the Internet into an enormous surveillance and control device and that is also beginning to threaten our imagination.

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