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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Using the Internet to get out of your reality tunnel

Jesse Walker has an excellent new essay up at, "The Facebook Friend in the Plastic Bubble," which argues that the Internet makes it easier for all of us to get out of our "reality tunnels" (my wording, not his) and get opinions and information from people who don't agree with us. (I think Jesse is right, but this is not the received opinion, hence his essay.) This blog posting illustrate's Walker's opening explanation of the reality tunnel concept with an illustration from Prometheus Rising.

My own experiences on Twitter would tend to illustrate Walker's point. True, I follow several libertarians and folks who are interested in Robert Anton Wilson, i.e., people who would tend to reinforce my (general) view of the world, but I also follow a few liberals and conservatives, too. (Robert Anton Wilson argued that everyone should make a point of reading opinions from people we don't agree with, to avoid becoming dumb by being locked in to one ideology. On the Internet, that's pretty easy). I also follow several news organizations. Because I'm on Twitter, l learned very quickly about the death of Osama bin Laden. I don't accept the thesis that the Internet shields me from what's going on in the world.


michael said...

Do you think this has anything to do with your relatively Neophilic stance? Does anyone believe the diehard Fox "News" watcher searches out divergent viewpoints in order to widen their understanding of the world?

Or possibly: a big hurdle is the internalization that none of us can "know all" and that we have our own reality tunnels that need to be challenged is we are not to lapse into Cosmic Schmucks?

The philosophers have a term "naive realism." I see this as a default epistemological stance that, as the curve of history accelerates, makes this more and more a threat to our well-being.

How does knowing about OBL's death a few hours before a radio listener or TV watcher or even Internet junky...relevant? How does knowing very quickly about OBL's death compare to, say, understanding why the economy crashed?

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...


These are good questions!

I guess I would argue that a lot of people get some of their news from Fox, and it's unlikely that all of these individuals behave in exactly in the same manner. I'm sure there are blinkered conservatives who avoid listening to anyone they disagree with, but I tend to suspect there are blinkered liberals. I certainly know for damn sure there are blinkered libertarians. The people who get some of their news from Fox (God help those who get ALL of their news there) who are curious about what's going on in the world certainly have more options than before.

As for Osama, the people Jesse are criticizing have argued for years that it's difficult to have a "national conversation" because nobody pays attention to the same stories anymore, as in the good old days when everyone got their news from the same three networks. I am pointing out that Twitter made it easier, not harder, for everyone to focus upon a big story.