28 май 2012

The Pack Mentality...

...or why Evgeny Morozov is wrong about the death of web surfing.
Chances you don't know who Evgeny Morozov is. Don't be alarmed,  he doesn't know you either. The guy has been a columnist for publications like The New York Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and has a book on the impact of social media on politics and political regimes. 

Recently he has started beating the drum about the dangers of the internet and the exchange (or lack there of) of ideas and different viewpoints (here and here). Mr Morozov claims people have tunnel vision as they consume information from few selected sources and are fed hand-picked information that matches their particular and narrow fields of interests by these news sources and news applications. Thus people don't surf the net to explore and expand knowledge and get familiar with opposing viewpoints, etc.

Kinda makes sense. Except for the fact it totally fails to acknowledge that humans have been pack animals from time immemorial. We tend to surround ourselves with people who share our beliefs and interests. Furthermore, the rise of the internet and social media led to demise of the nonpartisan mass media outlets. Nowadays we have a choice to pick the media outlets that resonate best with our own social/political beliefs and agenda.

These processes have exacerbated the polarization of modern society. Yet, modern technology and its participatory nature gives us a chance to monitor, evaluated and clash with opposing opinions whether it is stray dogs, abortion, gay rights. We might be not susceptible to embracing our ideological opponents ideas yet we are more informed and aware of the opposing viewpoints. 

Furthermore, online social networks are an excellent mean to disseminate information. Chances are the members of your social network share some of your interests but not all. Thus you can be easily exposed to new topics, information, and news sources. Of course, at the end it is up to you to open the link your buddy shared on Facebook.

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