Monday, April 26, 2010

Internet enhancing, not diminishing, the public square.

Some interesting points from David Brooks, noting a study by Gentzkow and Shapiro which counters the prevailing assumption that the internet has created a collection of information cocoons which people occupy to confirm their existing prejudices:
...they tracked how people of different political views move around the Web...The study measures the people who visit sites, not the content inside...a person who visited only Fox News would have more overlap with conservatives than 99 percent of Internet news users. A person who only went to The Times’s site would have more liberal overlap than 95 percent of users....the core finding is that most Internet users do not stay within their communities. Most people spend a lot of time on a few giant sites with politically integrated audiences, like Yahoo News.

But even when they leave these integrated sites, they often go into areas where most visitors are not like themselves. People who spend a lot of time on Glenn Beck’s Web site are more likely to visit The New York Times’s Web site than average Internet users. People who spend time on the most liberal sites are more likely to go to than average Internet users. Even white supremacists and neo-Nazis travel far and wide across the Web....Gentzkow and Shapiro found that the Internet is actually more ideologically integrated than old-fashioned forms of face-to-face association — like meeting people at work, at church or through community groups. You’re more likely to overlap with political opponents online than in your own neighborhood.

...Looking at a site says nothing about how you process it or the character of attention you bring to it. It could be people spend a lot of time at their home sites and then go off on forays looking for things to hate. But it probably does mean they are not insecure and they are not sheltered....If this study is correct, the Internet will not produce a cocooned public square, but a free-wheeling multilayered Mad Max public square. The study also suggests that if there is increased polarization (and there is), it’s probably not the Internet that’s causing it.

No comments:

Post a Comment