Doing Things Your Own Way
NewsWeek and the Death of Print

Is the Internet a Giant Echo Chamber?

Only if you want it to be it seems. Many believe that the web, and particularly social media, makes it uniquely easy to quarantine yourself amongst groups of likeminded people, surround yourself with positive feedback loops and avoid opposing or divergent viewpoints, in a giant echo chamber effect. Eric Barker quotes from Steven Johnson's new book (Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age) which describes an exhaustive study by two University of Chicago business professors which created a comparative 'isolation index' for various media. The internet fell right the middle, being slightly more ideologically isolating than local media (newspapers and cable news channels), but less so than national newspapers. Johnson also says that:

"...perhaps the most striking finding of the study came in its analysis of real-world communities. Neighborhoods, clubs, friends, work colleagues, family — all these groups proved to be deafening echo chambers compared with all forms of modern media. It turns out that people who spend a lot of time on political sites are as much as three times more likely to encounter diverse perspectives than people who hang out with their friends and colleagues at the bar or by the water cooler."


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