Homophily and butterflies

Posted on Monday, 28 April, 2008 by


I just l-o-v-e reading about exactly the things i think about, and I am delighted with some of the readings harvested from my feeds.

So I too, am subject of homophily, which is what I called groupthink before. Although the word groupthink is not very good either, I find homophily confusing as 1) in Dutch it means homosexuality; and 2) to me, thinking of “homo” as “mankind” (as in homo sapiens) and not “likeness / similarity” it sounds like something very positive, something like super-sociability, lovers of mankind.
It is however, the effect that the Internet enables us to consume only those news/themes we like and connect only to likeminded: we now can select a (news, contacts / media) diet to our taste and as an effect our taste will be affected. The fear, off course, is it will make us dumber and less tolerant. Ethan Zuckerman has lots of thought and links and juicy goodies about this here. He finds that people who are transliterate and used to crossing boundaries, especially third culture kids or xenophiles, seem to populate certain corners of the Internet. (Another thought I have had, how homophile am I and should I vary my Internet diet?) His view at the end: Xenophiles will thrive in a globalizing world… is not much supported when describing the hard time the very same xenophiles are having when trying to vary the “Internet -diet” of homophiles.

I agree in thinking that people who are experienced in venturing out alone in a new culture, express themselves in a language not their own, (the third culture kids and xenophiles) have an advantage discovering and experimenting in the new territories of the read/write web, and be the early population. But at the same time Web2.0, or the blogosphere, for a long time seemed disconnected from the rest of the world (the “echochamber”). I am often surprised how little certain “scenes” are connected…. and comfortably continue to be disconnected.

Looking at myself, I use three languages every single day. Different parts of my life, of my social circles, are very much separated. E.g. People I meet, do not read anything of what I read (or write, ha!). And I find I do only dosed cross-pollinating as a bumble bee, more often just butterflying from one scene to the next.

So instead of connecting, building bridges, varying diets, it sometimes only seems we are collectively practising our capability to live dis-jointed lifes. Instead of having one physical surrounding, one social circle where everyone else knows each other as well, we live in different life worlds; for school, work and family. I think we have come to accept, even like these separations. We are becoming very good at switching from one to the next. We are all become more used to living in multiple different (sub-)cultures. Internet, for a long time to come still, will be only one of these sub-cultures present in our lifes. Looking from that angle, I am not so fearsome of the negative effects of homophily.

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