Thursday, January 17, 2013


Roulette by stoneflower, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by stoneflower

Narrowcasting is my new word of the week. It turns up in an article by Michael Petrilli, Tweet thine enemy. Basically it's about the way we tend to live in a social media bubble, only following people we agree with and seldom being exposed to opposing views. The author has compared the Twitter followers of various American political and educational figures and examined if there is much overlap.  In most comparisons between followers of republican/democrat, radical/conservative the amount of people who followed both sides was between 5% and 15%. This was also evident in educational debate between traditionalists and radicals; the two sides simply talk past each other and rarely meet.

"The bottom line is that there’s a whole lot of talking past one another in the education debate, though maybe less than in the political debate writ large. Want to be part of the solution? You might start by following on Twitter people whose views you abhor and staying open to the possibility that they might, nevertheless, have a few smart things to say."

No surprise really and I'll admit that I'm probably guilty as charged. We need more serendipity in our net lives - room for the unexpected. Maybe Twitter should introduce a pot-luck feed you can subscribe to which chooses random comments from your field of interest and where you will probably meet views you do not subscribe to. The old term surfing the web that was coined way back in the early nineties was probably the opposite of the sheltered web we live in today. I remember my early surfing days when I simply followed links wherever they took me just for the thrill of discovering what was out there. Now that I feel at home on the net I tend to visit the same places. 

One antidote to all this is StumbleUpon. Here you just click and are taken to a random site that fits the interest categories you fill into your profile. If you don't select too specific interests StumbleUpon will take you to all sorts of pages. If you're not interested you just click and you get a new page and you keep clicking until you stumble upon something interesting. The idea is that StumbleUpon will slowly learn what you like as you refine your preferences and choose ever more specific categories in your profile. However if you don't refine your profile and just keep it guessing you have an extremely random and serendipitous web browser and you never know what you will find. A lot of the selections are just useless, some are bizarre but quite often you find something unexpected. Worth trying now and again to avoid the trap of narrowcasting.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is spot on, particularly the observation about being in a social media bubble created because we tend to follow people with the same beliefs, attitudes and experience to ourselves. I do have a few people I follow whose political views I disagree with vehemently and from time to time I find myself arguing with them on twitter, which is rather like having jousting with bendy straws. So narrowcasting is definitely something I can identify with...