India Uncut

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Come together. Polarise

Shankar Vedantam has a fascinating article in Washington Post about homophily, "a somewhat grand word to describe the idea that birds of a feather flock together." Vedantam writes:
You can see it the next time you visit your office cafeteria or a nearby park: Whites sitting together with whites, blacks with blacks, young people with other young people. When individuals from these groups mix, it is usually because they share something else in common, such as a pastime.


Studies show that most people interested in politics associate nearly exclusively with others who have similar political beliefs. [...] Homophily may help explain some of the bitter partisanship of our times -- when your friends are drawn exclusively from one half of the electorate, it is not surprising that you will find the views of the other half inexplicable.
It makes sense, actually: examining our beliefs and constantly exploring the nuances of every issue takes effort. It is far easier to arrive at a worldview, and then to embrace it, shutting off anything that threatens it. And most of us aren't writers who have a wider responsibility to the truth, so why should we not mingle only with people like us, read blogs that reinforce our view of the world, and spend our limited energies and attention bandwidth on things that have an actual utility in our lives?

This is one reason, in fact, why polarisation is inevitable, especially on matters regarding to politics and economics, and why the most successful political bloggers will always be those who preach to the converted. It could hardly be otherwise. That's why I feel it's all pointless sometimes, and I might as well stick to blogging about cows.

(Link via Impedance mismatch over HTTP.)
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