Having just finished the chapter on transnationalism, I can’t help but think that the ideas in this chapter are really about interactions inside and outside one’s own local community. This is an extension of the transnational idea that is explored in the chapter but it reminds me of how isolating the web can be.
We assume that because our networks are now potentially so much more global than they ever have been that we are getting a true read on how people around the world think. The reality is that we tend to insulate ourselves, usually unknowingly, from ideas that don’t conform to ours. Spreadable Media outlines a number of examples of this, probably most poignantly, that of the digirati versus those that aren’t “connected.” But even among those that do spend time connected interacting with those outside of their immediate social circles, there is a tendency to congregate in groups of like-minded individuals. While this is nothing new – we’ve done this with our cliques at school or through the bars we tend to hangout in – I think that we deceive ourselves more about how tuned in to the world we are because our mode of connection is digital and potentially global.
School librarians can help make students aware of the ways that they are potentially isolating themselves or their ideas through the research that they do for school projects. A simple thing like logging out of Google before doing a search or trying different search engines will help take the bias that certain engines will present. Learning to search within a particular domain when searching topics localized outside of the searcher’s community will help to get the perspective of that domain. (For example, searching for results within “.cn” will give results exhibiting more of a Chinese perspective.) And, as awkward as translation pages can be, looking beyond English search results and translating results in other languages will at least give the searcher a sense of the perspective of non-English speaking communities.
There is nothing wrong with affiliating oneself with a particular group online. It is part of what helps us establish our personal identity and it helps to filter information from a seemingly infinite barrage of ideas in a connected world. But we must be aware of what we are doing and how our affiliations and filters affect the way we think, for good and for bad!