Some fear horizontal bonds have the tendency to create an echo chamber, wherein the conversation becomes a series of voices repeating each other’s words, in effect, the choir preaching to the mirror. At its worst, this echo produces “group polarization.” Cass Sunstein provides evidence that groups made up of like-minded individuals “are likely to move toward a more extreme point in the direction to which to the group’s member were originally inclined” (Bucy, 248) after interacting for a period of time.
But Sunstein’s thesis appears to be evolving as open-source software development, Wikipedia, and the blogosphere emerge as exceptions to his rule.
A few years ago, a book of mine, Republic.com, emphasized the risks associated with echo chambers and self-insulation. I’m doing a new book, still inchoate, that continues to explore those risks, but that also stresses the excitingly general possibility that the Internet can allow widely dispersed “bits” of human information to be properly aggregated — as, for example, through open source software, wikis, prediction markets, and even blogging.
I’m excited to see someone so entrenched as a counterpoint in recent New Media theory taste-testing the Aggregation-flavored Kool-Aid. Follow the thread, see where it goes.
[tags]Cass Sunstein, horizontal bonds, group polarization[/tags]