February 20, 2004

Echo Chamber vs. Choir

Some of the recent discussion I've seen about "echo chambers" seems to be blurring that concept with what I'd call a "choir".

As a simple technical statement, cheaper communication makes it easier to form "choirs", groups of like-minded people. There are two opposite ways in which one can go wild with this, in terms of filling column-space:

1) Utopian - The happy little blogging bears will "self-organize" into an, err, Regurgitant Pundocracy, where The People will defeat The Special Interests, as writing about one's cat will make George Bush vulnerable (and Howard Dean president).

2) Dystopian - The dregs of society will be able to form gangs as never before, and other groups will become isolated and polarized, leading to the wholesale breakdown of commonality necessary for a functioning democratic civilization (The book Republic.com is perhaps the most well-known example of this genre).

Again, these "choirs", groups of people coming together for a common purpose, can be positive or negative. Crucially, everyone involved is assumed to understand the purpose, and in theory is passionately committed to it (though the practice often falls short).

In contrast, an "Echo chamber" is more the illusion of many voices, but in actuality, each voice is just the same thing, a reflection of the initial statement. Most blogs and most reporters simple do echoing of authority.

Important result: People echoing each other can sound like they are forming a choir, though these are conceptually distinct.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on February 20, 2004 04:41 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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