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I was chatting with a colleague in the office about the survey I am currently conducting and he suggested that I be aware of the “Echo Chamber Effect” when analysing the results. So I went off to look further into this.

So what is the “Echo Chamber Effect”. A line from Wikipedia sums this up as:

“Participants in on-line communities may find their own opinions constantly echoed back to them, which reinforces their individual belief systems.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echo_chamber_%28media%29

This effect appears everyday in Social Media and people may be doing it without realising or being swayed by it. As people are more socially linked and their feeds and adverts are tailored to their social and browsing habits.

One video worth watching is by Eli Pariser who presents a TED Talk on “Beware on-line filter bubbles” which shows how browsers and social media are filtering what you see based on your habits.

Source: http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles

A paper by Cass R Sunstein on The Law of Group Polarization provides some background into the “Echo Chamber Effect” and describes this as:

In brief, group polarization arises when members of a deliberating group move toward a more extreme point in whatever direction is indicated by the members’ predeliberation tendency. “Like polarized molecules, group members become even more aligned in the direction they were already tending.”

Paper located at http://www.law.uchicago.edu/files/files/91.CRS_.Polarization.pdf

Is there an antidote to this?

Maybe……. Dan Gillmor in a blog about how book “Mediactive” states:

One of the great worries about the Internet is the echo chamber effect: the notion that democratized media have given us a way to pay attention only to the people we know we’ll agree with, paying no attention to contrary views or, often, reality.

This is no idle worry. But the same digital media that make it possible to retreat into our own beliefs give us easier ways to emerge, and engage.

A key principle introduced in the first chapter was the idea of going outside your comfort zone. This has several, related facets:

  • Learn from people who live in places and cultures entirely different from your own.
  • Listen to the arguments of people you know you’ll disagree with.
  • Challenge your own assumptions.

Gillmor goes on to quote Carl Sagan and his essay called “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,”

Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.

Source: http://mediactive.com/3-8-escape-the-echo-chamber/

Source: http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/saganbd.htm#BALONEY

There are lots of other sources available on the internet that cover the subject, but for me this has been an interesting skim across the surface highlighting the need to be aware of this and apply some treatments to the survey results so I try not to cause an Echo Chamber Effect.

Building on what I have learnt looking into this and to try and counter the “Echo Chamber Effect”, I have created the following to help me remember – STACK

  • Step Back
  • Think
  • Absorb other views
  • Challenge your thinking
  • communicate your Knowledge

I’m sure there is a better term somewhere……

Maybe once in a while we should follow this advice from Graham Chastney and put our Social Media on hold for a day and detox from it to allow time to challenge your thinking by removing the distractions:

Source: http://grahamchastney.com/2015/01/youre-being-distracted-by-that-mobile-phone-even-though-you-arent-using-it/

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