The OF Blog: The insidiousness of the "echo chamber"

Friday, February 15, 2013

The insidiousness of the "echo chamber"

Yesterday, I was driving in downtown Nashville on my way to a job interview when I heard an interesting piece on the sports talk radio show, the Midday 180 on 104.5 FM.  The hosts were discussing a piece that a colleague of theirs on the 3-6 PM show, Clay Travis, had written on his site, Outkick the Coverage, in response to a post by another prominent sports blogger, Will Leitch, on ESPN sports personality Daren Rovell.  Even if you do not enjoy sports as much as I do, be sure to read the two columns now. 

One pertinent point that the radio hosts made when discussing Travis' column was that too quickly sports bloggers come to conflate the opinions of themselves and fellow sports bloggers with "the voice of the fan."  That point hit close home to me, as it so easily can be applied to a whole host of hobby blogs, including literary/genre blogs and the people who operate them.  It is an enduring irony of online communication that people are able to be pseudonymous and feel like they are "separate" from a larger population, yet too often when a cross-section of blogs in a certain field are examined, there is indeed a conflation of thought.

Take for instance, books that have "generated buzz."  Some might decry this as being solely due to publisher influence/pressure, but it's as likely an internalized thing, where a certain group of bloggers want to be a "trendsetter," with the result of certain books getting promoted within a short span as "the hot thing" to read for month X.  Sometimes, these books do end up being popular bestsellers, but sometimes they do not and books that are decried as being "rehashed pulp" that only the "mindless drones" read end up being the real sellers.  It is all too easy to confuse the taste of one's self and one's peers with "the public."

Of course, I myself am not innocent of all this.  After all, the "mean" part of the articles linked to above can be applied to my criticisms of certain bloggers, even those whose entire approach is antithetical to mine.  Even though I do the same in-person as I do online to those who might need to have their egos pinpricked (mine needs it as well), it can be too tempting to just rip apart the opinion or the delivery method of that approach and fail to recognize that one's own opinion may not be the most "popular" one.  The "echo chamber" of opinions can lead to a flattening out of personal takes, as some may want to fit in with the crowd when it comes to attacks, just as it happens for endorsing new releases/authors. 

Maybe it's a sign of impending "maturity" or middle age, but I have grown weary of trying to fit in with a "larger conversation."  What I review may or may not be popular, may or may not be of interest to those who see my opinions here, on Gogol's Overcoat, on Twitter/Facebook, or on various online forums where I occasionally post.  I like to think that I post for myself, but perhaps sometimes there are others who share common interests (or experience Schadenfreude when I write a snarky post or excoriate someone's writings on Twitter, such as that one post linked to above).  But I hope that I don't confuse that with a "mainstream" of thought, because if I do, then I really have little clue as to what "connects" with people in terms of literature.  Perhaps it'd be safer to presume that I don't have such a clue and write/review with the belief that the expression of my opinion is not the voicing of common opinions. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gogol's Overcoat is pretty much my exclusive "recommendation machine" at this point. The books that are reviewed there and on OF are books that I would never find without the posts and they're always more interesting than 95% of everything else being published.

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