Sunday, February 05, 2006


Chris Selley approvingly cites a Dan Gardner column about the blogosphere echo chamber. Is it a problem, or rather, a big deal? I'd probably pick No, mainly because there's nothing to be done about it (i.e. if you had infinite resources, what would you do to solve this problem?).

Anyway, I mainly wanted to address this bit. Gardner's take, Selley's emphasis:
But the explosion of voices on the Internet also made it possible for people to obtain all their news, analysis and opinions exclusively from like-minded sources.

This paradox has been around since before the first day I read a blog, and I wish the people who promote it would do a better job backing it up. Here's my non-paradoxical counter-thesis: as the number of sources of analysis & opinion in the universe increases, so does people's exposure to them. I think this is a good thing, regardless of which sources they reference most and trust the most.

I also believe that like-minded people getting together and egging each other on is not a human phenomenon that appeared along with the popularization of the blog. I further believe that the echo-chamber phenomenon is way overstated. Take the Shotgun, for example: for a place that's sealed off from the outside world, there's sure a lot of references to the dreaded Main Stream Media.

And also, inherent in Gardner's piece is the idea that it was different before the Internet. I'm highly skeptical; I wish someone show me an example of a person who was broadly engaged with the world and its diversity in 1990, but has since shut themselves off from all but the most friendly takes.

People are always searching for explanations as to why others have strongly-held opinions, especially when those opinions are immoderate. I think Gardner's take is just the most contemporary of those explanations.