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!

One thought on “Spreadable Media – An Interaction – Part 6

  1. I love your point, Marc, about looking outside one’s community. As our exchange has proven out for me, connecting with someone thinking about the same ideas from a different field is one of the most instructive things one can do. That’s been one of the joys of working on this project with an interdisciplinary group of academics, and well outside academia…to see what others’ reactions are to the ideas. As my co-authors and I stumbled across people who we believed might disagree with parts of our argument, we invited them to read it before the book was published, if they were interested, and pose their disagreements before we ever published it, so we could consider it before the book was written. I expect to find many more ideas and disagreements now that the book is out and circulating more widely. That’s one of the reasons I find it so worth my time to track down when and where people are discussing the book and to really engage with the discussions happening there…where engagement with our ideas matter most…within the particulars of different fields, jobs, etc., where there’s so much I can learn about the potentials and the barriers to truly adapting to a world where the “audience” can play such a potentially substantial role in the circulation of content.

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