Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Totally Normal Blog: We Are All Pauline Kael Now by Michael Prescott

Michael Prescott talks about how we tend to select our sources of information that favors our opinions in The Totally Normal Blog: We Are All Pauline Kael Now. Recommended reading.

Here is what I posted in response:

Michael, I heartily agree. I know that despite my goal of being as objective as possible (no easy task given our nature!) I naturally gravitate to blogs and web sites with which I agree. Part of it is limited time. Part of it is having a limited ability (and desire) to stomach what the other side is saying. When you talk about the bubbles we build I saw a skit Bill Maher (who I can take in small doses) put on his show in which he had someone representing a typical conservative sitting inside a bubble while he hurled “facts” that the conservative couldn’t hear. I wish I could remember an example but don’t. Must be my built-in defense mechanism. ;-) Maher’s goal was to show how conservatives isolate themselves from uncomfortable facts. I’ve heard similar accusations from the right about the left.

This is a little off topic but I think a lot of this non-communication is caused by people talking at different conceptual levels. For instance, for Objectivists and libertarians the individual is their foundation. Conservatives talk more about families and tradition. Liberals talk more about it taking a village to raise a child.

As an example of this building your own bubble trend I recently learned about an iPad app called Zite which feeds stories to you in different categories such as politics, science, and psychology. You can vote on which stories or sources you like or dislike. As you vote on the stories Zite refines what it sends to you. After installing it I've tried to avoid completely shutting down sites like Salon, Slate, and others precisely to see what the other side is saying if for no other reason than to see what arguments (such as they are) that they’re using.

So I'd say there are positives and negatives with having the ability to find sources of information to your liking. On the one hand it helps break the monopoly the mainstream new media has had on doling out information to us. On the other it becomes too easy, as you said, to build a bubble that shields facts that might not neatly fit your favored explanatory model (to coin an awkward term).

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