Fighting the Web’s “Cocooning Effect”
Robert Wright is a journalist, scholar, and author of several best-selling books about science, evolutionary psychology, history, religion, and game theory, including "The Evolution of God," "Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny," "The Moral Animal," and "Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information." He is a visiting scholar at The University of Pennsylvania and Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. He is also the co-founder and Editor in Chief of Bloggingheads.tv, a current events "diavlog" featured in The New York Times and elsewhere.
Question: What excites you most about new media right now?\r\n
Robert Wright: I’m getting to the age where some new media are starting to seem threatening. I mean, first of all, I would say things beyond a certain age, things come along like Twitter and you’re like, do I have to figure this out? And so far, I haven’t surrendered. It’s like Facebook came along and I’m like, okay, I’ll join Facebook. And Twitter, okay I’m paying a little attention. But the older you get, the less enthusiastic you are about your social environment kind of being transformed.\r\n
Aside from that, there’s a separate problem that I think is a genuine problem, leaving aside my age, which is that in general, for a long time ever since the – well really long time, the tendency has been as information processing and transmission gets easier and cheaper, it’s been easier and easier to organize kind of smaller and smaller interest groups, you might say. Even back with computerized mass mail 40 or 50 years ago, that’s what allowed people to organize taxpayer’s into interest groups, or old people into interest groups, and now the internet basically is an extension of that same trend is leading of the further kind of balkanization of opinion. So, people go to their blogs where they basically it’s preaching to the choir, they hear things they already agree with and there’s this cocooning effect. And I think that’s a real problem.\r\n
And Bloggingheads, I didn’t really start out thinking about it this way, but it has shown the capacity to some extent counteract that just because if you bring two people together in a conversation. I mean, we do split screen video dialogues, it’s harder for them, even if they strenuously disagree with things, it’s harder for them to be uncivil toward one another. And it’s harder for them to avoid the serious arguments that is being made by the other side. So, it’s been kind of interesting to see that effect and to try to cultivate a comment section that is fairly ideologically diverse because you don’t see that much of that on the internet. Most comment sections for most blogs are fairly ideologically homogenous. So, that’s an interesting, you know, it’s not going to save the world, but it’s an interesting attempt to some extent to transcend the really naturally kind of balkanizing and tribalizing tendencies of the internet.
Recorded on February 12, 2010
Internet life tends to wrap us up in our own narrow interests and points of view. The "Bloggingheads" editor-in-chief believes that this can change.
A mind-bending paradox questions the nature of reality.
- Boltzmann Brains are hypothetical disembodied entities with self-awareness.
- It may be more likely for a Boltzmann Brain to come into existence than the whole Universe.
- The idea highlights a paradox in thermodynamics.
What makes an excellent educator?
- When it comes to educating, says Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, a brave failure is preferable to timid success.
- Fostering an environment where one isn't afraid to fail is tantamount to learning.
- Human beings are complicated and flawed. Working with those complications and flaws leads to true knowledge.
Drinking home alone in your underwear just might be what you need to be as relaxed as the Finnish.
- Päntsdrunk is the latest trend to come out of Northern Europe and it involves drinking alone at home.
- Finnish writer Miska Rantanen outlines the philosophy in his newest book titled: Pantsdrunk: Kalsarikanni: The Finnish Path to Relaxation.
- Kalsarikänni is a word in Finnish that literally means "drinking at home and alone in your underwear."
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.