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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More than two years ago I wrote

I started making poems, at least after I got past the advantages of being a sensitive guy, in order to participate in a very grand conversation … I thought—and I guess I still think—that blogs, and the web in general, have the potential to re-open the lines of communication between the isolated poetry worlds that have grown since the Second World War (members of the avant gardes, which once thought they were opening new territory for the rest of us, now try to maintain their separateness for its own sake), but what I’ve seen so far is also an ability to find enough people who think just like me to create the illusion of a grand conversation.

And now, via the indispensable Arts & Letters Daily (which also led me to Sunday’s Poetry Stand) I find “The Polarization of Extremes,” describing an experiment done in Colorado in 2005 (was something in the air?) which concluded “people held more-extreme positions after they spoke with like-minded others” and then goes on to note that

[t]he Internet makes it exceedingly easy for people to replicate the Colorado experiment online, whether or not that is what they are trying to do. Those who think that affirmative action is a good idea can, and often do, read reams of material that support their view; they can, and often do, exclude any and all material that argues the other way. Those who dislike carbon taxes can find plenty of arguments to that effect. Many liberals jump from one liberal blog to another, and many conservatives restrict their reading to points of view that they find congenial. In short, those who want to find support for what they already think, and to insulate themselves from disturbing topics and contrary points of view, can do that far more easily than they can if they skim through a decent newspaper or weekly newsmagazine.

A key consequence of this kind of self-sorting is what we might call enclave extremism. When people end up in enclaves of like-minded people, they usually move toward a more extreme point in the direction to which the group's members were originally inclined. Enclave extremism is a special case of the broader phenomenon of group polarization, which extends well beyond politics and occurs as groups adopt a more extreme version of whatever view is antecedently favored by their members.

I also learned from the article that I was hardly the first to make such a suggestion. Nicholas Negroponte predicted the “The Daliy Me” in 1995.


You know, that whole month was pretty darned good. I don’t think I’m quite back to that level of blogging, but onward and upward …


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