February 07, 2004

The Internet Echo Chamber is Similar to Echo Chambers Elsewhere

Doc was quoted in Joseph Menn's/LA Times story, Dean Backers Debate Internet 'Echo Chamber' today. My favorite comes at the very end, about Dean and the use of the internet in the political/campaign process:

Many blog folks are quoted including Dave Winer, John Perry Barlow, Clay Shirky, David Weinberger, Michael Cornfield and Larry Lessig. Dave Weinberger responds:

An interesting thing, this echo chamber effect, and how digital media and the internet can take it in directions that are perpendicular to the kind that happen in the analog world. With the internet, we can't usually see the people we are conversing with (though there are blog photos, on the internet, no one knows your a dog...). This means it's harder in some ways to see a lack of diversity when conversing, because the commonality is just in the similar interests or characteristics and that those with opposing views are located somewhere else on the internet. The physical queues that would alert us to the lack of diversity are missing and so we turn to online queues which may either be non-existent, or just very different, and can't represent the physical and emotional states we embody. These digital queues may show us other things that might or might not lead us to diverse discussions, (exceptions for rants and other obvious excitements, but if one is just talking in a forum or blog, it's harder to gain that emotional presence that we pick up on in person and we might misinterpret anotherís words in associating an emotional component).

I had a conversation with Eddan Katz yesterday about these echo chambers we find ourselves in, talking about the copyfight echo chamber, the Dean echo chamber, journalism and mediaís, Washington DCís, New Yorkís, SFís, academiaís, lawyerís, liberalís, conservativeís, etc. All these echo chambers, whether in person/analog or online, lead to reinforcing their memberís views, while at the same time like members explore the logic and understanding of their shared interest or commonality. Some good and some bad there, but the value of the internet for us is the way we can, given interest and concern, find conversations easily that we donít normally listen to, views we might not otherwise see because they donít have physical proximity or the right of entry, to see what people who think differently are thinking about. The opportunity is there if we want to find it, but then, even the internet is an echo chamber, because our commonality is that we are people with access and an understanding of how to converse and how to find others conversing. This is a huge problem, though also a huge opportunity to find diversity without proximity.

Also, I am in a class with Joe Menn, who is an interesting, smart guy. Questions in the first class to students included what we had written, and I mentioned my blogs. I asked him whether he (or Katie Hafner) read blogs, would read them if he knew he himself or a particular article was being discussed. No, he said, no time, and not interested. Sort of intimated that bloggers are in the cranks and crazies category. Though he didn't say this outright. Didn't seem to like blogs at all, highly suspicious of them and their writers. Nice article though.

Posted by Mary Hodder at February 7, 2004 10:28 AM | TrackBack

That's not what I said in class. I do read blogs regularly, am impressed with many of them, and often act on information I find there. What I said was that if someone blogged about me or my articles, I don't feel compelled to follow it up. I'd rather read what people have to say about mroe important things.

Posted by: Joe Menn at April 23, 2004 04:14 PM

Hmmmm ... yet here you are Joe, reading what someone blogged about you and then following it up.

Also, it seems strange to me that you wouldn't want to know how people are commenting on your work, either negatively or positively. Don't you want to know when you've made an error?

Also, if your work is not important enough for you to follow up on comments, why is it important enough for people to read in the first place?

Posted by: Ernest Miller at April 25, 2004 08:33 PM