Homophily, or birds of a feather…

September 3, 2010 at 11:27 pm Leave a comment

Homophily, unlike hemophilia, doesn’t involve blood. Not literally anyway.

Homophily is the tendency to be attracted to individuals that resemble you or who hold ideas that are similar to your own. I should add that homophily does not necessarily mean you are gay. But if you are a homophile, well, that word is in fact synonymous with gay. Look it up in the online Merriam-Webster if you don’t believe me. Or Wikipedia. Oh the wondrous but confusing world of language!

Ethan Zuckerman, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, claims that the internet amplifies our human tendency to build communities around us who mirror our own values and social status. In practical terms this means that the people we tend to friend on Facebook or Twitter, for example, are people with whom we generally already share ideas, beliefs and values. Why is it a problem? Because we create a bubble around ourselves that doesn’t reflect other realities or other ways of seeing the same reality.

According to Zuckerman, the internet needs editors to counteract this problem. Traditionally the editor’s role consisted of wading through various viewpoints on a singular topic and presenting new approaches on old questions to the public. As traditional media gives way to the power of the internet, the editor’s role has yet to be clearly defined. Zuckerman argues that homophily is not necessarily an internet problem but is a human problem.

Listen to Ethan Zuckerman on On The Media.

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