Ethan Zuckerman’s online home, since 2003

Homophily, serendipity, xenophilia

There’s been a small but fascinating blog conversation going on surrounding the term “homophily”. Journalism and media critic Amy Gahran encountered the term in an interview I and Solana Larsen gave with Chris Lydon of Radio Open Source and explored the concept in an extended riff and a set of bookmarks. Tom, an educator living and working in Ankara, weighed in with a moving story about learning from a Guatemalan colleague. Michele Martin, an education blogger, worries that the internet as a whole is a source for homophily and may be making her (and all of us) dumber. (Here she’s pulling on some threads explored by Cass Sunstein in Republic.com and Infotopia. More on that in a bit.) And yesterday, my colleague and friend David Sasaki invoked the conversation in an important post on the difficulties of getting people to pay attention to voices from the developing world.

I love it when smart people join a conversation I was trying to get started. So here’s my attempt to flesh out a bit more of why I think homophily, serendipity and xenophilia are useful concepts, what little I know about the academic literature about them, and what I’m reading to learn more.

I was introduced to the term “homophily” through a post on Nat Torkinton’s blog titled “Homophily in Social Software“, which led me to an excellent piece by Shankar Vedantam titled “Why Everyone You Know Thinks the Same as You“.

“Homophily” is a remarkably useful term, a compact word that succinctly expresses the idea that “birds of a feather flock together” – that you’re likely to befriend, talk to, work with and share ideas with people who’ve got common ethnic, religious and economic background with you. It’s not a new word – it was coined by Lazarsfeld and Merton in 1954 in an essay titled “Friendship as a Social Process” – but it’s never quite caught on. A Google search for the term gives you 51,000 results, roughly as many as my favorite obscure, Greek-derived sociological term, “xenophilia”. (One of the high ranking results for “homophily” is an interesting question on Yahoo Answers with the unhelpful answer, “Homophily does not exist as a word although homophile (gay)does.”

I’ve been talking and writing about homophily as one of the concepts that helps explain the challenges and issues that surround Global Voices and my larger media attention work. It’s my contention that living in the 21st century requires understanding what people think, feel and want in different parts of the world, given that both the challenges and opportunities of next several decades are global, not local ones. (Understanding Iraqi attitudes towards a US occupying force and Shia/Sunni/Kurdish tensions better might have mitigated the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Understanding Chinese and Indian economic aspirations is probably a prerequisite to figuring out how to regulate carbon emissions while those nations embrace automobile ownership. And activists trying to change Chinese policy in Darfur would benefit from better understanding of Chinese pride, the concept of “face” and the power of nationalism.)

Historically, our understanding of attitudes and opinions in other cultures is a heavily mediated one. As Kwame Appiah elegantly outlines in Cosmopolitanism, it’s only in very recent times that most people have been able to directly encounter people from different parts of the world. And despite air travel, most Americans have an impression of Nigeria through newspapers, movies and 419 emails rather than from travelling to the country or spending time with Nigerians. We understand the world, for the most part, through what we hear about it, not what we encounter of it. To the extent that our understanding of the wider world is a poor one, it’s worth asking questions about our media is working correctly.

There’s no shortage of voices reporting a crisis in the world of journalism. In 2001, media critic David Shaw reported that foreign coverage had shrunk “70% to 80% during the past 15 to 20 years” due to economic and cultural factors. He quotes a 1998 study from UC San Diego which saw international news coverage in American newspapers shrink from 15% to 2% of total content. More recently, Alisa Miller – president of PRI – produced an elegant short video that graphically depicts the paucity of international news coverage on American television.

(News isn’t the only way we encounter other countries – movies, television and music shape perceptions as well. But journalism has an explicit public service function, a social responsibility to inform citizens so they can make political decisions. Some of the blame for an isolated, ill-informed citizenry has to fall on the news media.)

The shift from broadcast media to read/write media has the potential to shift this equation. Rather than encountering people through the filter of professional media, perhaps we can reach them directly through their blogs, videos, photos. (This isn’t always possible – the digital divide is very real, and I’d argue that many of the arguments I made about digital exclusion in “Making Room for the Third World in the Second Superpower” still hold.) We no longer need to wait for CNN to connect us with people and stories in Bangladesh or Brazil – the explosion of personal publishing means that someone is likely speaking up in those corners of the world.

The rise of the read/write web turns the problem of paying attention to the rest of the world from a supply to a demand problem. You can find Brazilian, Bengali and Bulgarian voices, but only if you bother looking for them, stumble across them or are led to them by creators and curators of content.

This new “digital disorder”, as David Weinberger describes it, requires new systems to make navigation possible. Some systems rely on trusted guides, editors who we trust to help us sort through the mess. (Think BoingBoing and the crew who man that ship, or any prominent site capable of driving traffic to smaller sites.) Others rely on collective intelligence of their users to suggest stories – Digg, Reddit, etc.

The systems that rely on network effects, as Torkinton points out, are deeply affected by homophily. (So, as it turns out, are the systems based on human editors.) Some of these systems ask you what stories you liked, then find others who liked those stories and recommend their favorite stories – this is a technique called “collaborative filtering“, and it’s become increasingly popular as a paradigm for navigating a complex, choice-rich world of media. You can see how CF could be a homophily trap – tell Netflix that you liked the film “Sneakers” and it will find you other people who liked “Sneakers” (most of whom are, like you, ageing computer geeks), and suggest other films they liked. The recommendations you’ll receive are likely to be good, but are less likely to be surprising and challenging.

Systems simpler than CF fall victim to homophily traps as well. A site like Reddit attracts a lot of young men who work technical jobs and lean to the left politically – rely on Redditors for your news and you’re unlikely to encounter many stories from the developing world, from the political right, from non-technical disciplines. (Yes, I’m writing in huge, sweeping generalizations here – comments pointing out a single Africa story on Digg to refute this aren’t especially helpful.)

Why is homophily a trap? Cass Sunstein argues that it can polarize us – in Infotopia, he cites a study he helped conduct that demonstrates that deliberation of political issues with like-minded people leads subjects to a more politically polarized stance. From this, and from a close reading of political polarization in the blogosphere, he argues that the Internet may make it easier for us to share information with likeminded individuals, and that in a political context, this could be a bad thing.

I’ve made a much less persuasive and elegant argument summarized by the aphorism “Homophily can make you stupid.” My argument, basically, is that it’s possible to miss huge trends, changes and opportunities by talking solely to people who agree with you. I use myself as an exemplar of this sort of stupidity – I found myself so baffled by the results of the 2004 US Presidential election that I invited Republicans to come have a beer with me to explain what they were thinking. (One did. Thanks, Ian.) If homophily is capable of misleading Americans about local politics, just imagine what we fail to understand about Egypt, Pakistan and Fiji by virtue of not consuming media recommended by people from those places?

Writing from an engineering perspective, Torkinton suggests that authors of social software need to first decide whether homophily is a feature or a bug. If the goal of an application is to broaden your information universe, homophily may be a bug, and designers may want to include “less relevant but also likely to be interesting” recommendations. He recommends framing this as a feature, searching for ways to deliver “serendipity”, which he defines as “pleasantly surprising the user”.

(“Serendipity” is a fascinating term. It was coined in 1754 by Horace Walpole, a prolific British novelist and correspondent. He referenced a Persian fairytale, The Three Princes of Serendip, referring to a set of characters who “were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” While that definition – and, indeed, the story cited – don’t precisely map to current usage of the term, Richard Boyle offers a long essay tracing the coinage of the term and feels that Walpole’s invention was the definitive first use. “Serendip”, incidently, was a Persian name for Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. Always nice to discover that a concept like serendipity has global origins.)

Serendipity is harder than it sounds. It’s one thing to surprise someone – it’s another to surprise someone helpfully. It’s even hard to define – lately I’ve been arguing with David Weinberger about whether certain examples constitute serendipity. Looking on a library shelf for a particular title, discovering it isn’t particularly interesting, but discovering the exact book you need nearby? (Fortunate, but also a consequence of the power of a topical organizational system.) Finding a newspaper story you never would have searched for but found very useful because the editors put it on the bottom of the front page, in what Dan Gillmor has called “the serendipity box”? (Again, very fortunate, but hardly surprising that editors would drive readers to less-read content.)

The reason serendipity is important to consider is that it’s one of the few affirmative ways to get people to pay attention to news from the developing world. I’ve argued that there’s three basic paths to get people to pay attention to, say, Somalia:
– Fear: There’s no government there, and there are lots of angry Muslims. If we don’t pay attention, we’re ignoring the next hotbed of terrorism
– Guilt: People are dying there. If things get out of hand, you might see Ethiopia slaughtering large numbers of Somali. Let’s not ignore another Rwandan genocide.
– Greed/Opportunity: Sure, it’s a mess, but did you know that Somali Telecom is making a fortune in the north of the country?

These arguments always put me in the mind of Melissa Rossi’s book, “What Every American Should Know About the Rest of the World“, a book which seems to be designed solely for people who are embarrased at cocktail parties when countries they can’t find on a map become topics of conversation. My guess is that avoiding embarrasment is not an especially powerful motivator for engaging with international issues and opinions.

I’ve argued for some time that a different model exists – xenophilia. There are people in the world who are genuinely fascinated by the very breadth, complexity and difference of the world. Many of these people are “third culture kids”, people who were raised in one country but “from” another country. Others are people who live, work or love outside their home cultures. My colleagues at Global Voices are, for the most part, people identifiable as xenophiles. I think there’s an argument to be made that xenophiles are uniquely equipped to thrive in a globalizing world and that cultivating xenophilia should be both a personal priority and an aspect of a nation’s educational and diplomatic strategy.

But xenophilia’s hard. It’s one thing to say to oneself, “I really should pay attention to matters in Somalia” and another thing to do it. Joi Ito has talked about “the caring problem“, the difficulty of really caring enough about people in another part of the world to engage with news from that community. At Berkman, we’ve been discussing the problem in terms of broccoli and chocolate – you know you should eat broccoli because it’s good for you, but there’s just so much tasty chocolate out there!

Serendipity breaks the chocolate/broccoli paradigm – it gives you broccoli as you’re searching for chocolate, adn it turns out to be just the right thing at the moment. It doesn’t require you to identify as a global citizen – it just means you’re following your interest in sumo wrestling and find yourself discovering a debate about Japanese identity and Asian politics.

So… that’s more or less an outline of the ideas I’m wrestling with right now, trying to figure out if they might represent the outline of a book. Specifically on the questions of homophily and serendipity, I’m interested in these questions:

– Do people who are ethnographically/psychographically similar consume the same media? Where’s the causality in this? Do we both read the NYTimes because we’re both liberals, or are we liberals because we read the NYTimes?

– Does consumption of the same media lead to the polarization Sunstein sees in deliberation, or is that a feature/bug of the deliberative process?

– Is homophily in terms of bridging and bonding social capital? If so, is Putnam right that bowling leagues create bridging capital? (There’s a lot of middle aged white dudes in my bowling league.) What do institutions that create international bridging capital look like in an internet age?

– How do you create serendipity? Is this something that’s algorithmically possible in collaborative filtering systems or other recommendation engines? Is serendipity a function of breaking out of your existing, homophilic social circles, or is it better generated within those circles?

On my immediate reading list:
Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks, by McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook
Lazarsfeld and Merton’s essay introducing the term “homophily” in Freedom and Control in Modern Society, edited by Berger, Abel and Page, 1954
Putnam, both Bowling Alone and his recent, worrying research on trust and socioethnic diversity

Would love your suggestions, directions, critiques and feedback, both from people already in this conversation and those who’ve been watching from the sideline.

38 Responses to “Homophily, serendipity, xenophilia”

  1. Hanan Cohen says:

    Googling is a serendipity engine.

    Google AdSense work because many people search for something, land on a page, don’t find there what they want but click an ad.

    See here: http://fortuito.us/2007/05/how_ads_really_work_superfans_1

    If GV would create an AdSense lookalike, that analyzed the content of my pages and showed relevant content from GV, I would have added it to my sites.

  2. Liz Henry says:

    The things that relate us through homophily can shift and that might help. I’m all for xenophilia, but if a lot of people tend towards homophily, then we can build tools to keep exposing elements that might bind people in common.

    When everyone in Nigeria has a mommyblog and there is good on the fly automatic translation, then people will be making friends and getting interested in each others’ lives and families. And when you get all the alpaca-yarn-knitting women’s cooperatives in Bolivia onto Ravelry, then something very interesting will happen. In short once blogs, cameraphones, net cafes, and social media tools take out even more of the mediating filters between culture, language, & class, homophilia will be better enabled.

  3. Liz Henry says:

    Slip of the tongue there, “homophily” not homophila.

  4. Amy Gahran says:

    Excellent food for thought, Ethan. Thanks much for posting this.

    In a nice bit of serendipity, just the day before I listened to the podcast with the interview with you & Solana, I listened to an IT Conversations interview with Tim Spalding, founder of LibraryThing.com, a social book cataloging tool: http://urltea.com/34j9

    One of the topics they discussed is the “unsuggester” feature of Librarything.com: http://urltea.com/34jb

    A 2006 Wired blog post (http://urltea.com/34ja) about LibraryThing says, “UnSuggester is a recommendation engine turned on its head. Instead of telling you what you’d like based on what you already like, UnSuggester tells you what you wouldn’t like based on what you like. …Based on the Unsuggester search results you can force expose yourself to other things that might otherwise pass quietly by you. The potential for new discoveries is actually much greater with negative suggestions than it ever will be with those that cater to your mold.”

    So it appears that serendipity can be addressed at least partially through algorithmic tools. At least, that’s one foot in the door.

    This is on my mind because later this week I’ll be attending the NewsTools 2008 event (http://newshare.typepad.com/jtm2008sv), where about 150 journalists and geeks will be mashing up new tools to create more “journalism that matters.” Right after I finish leaving this comment I’m going to hop over to the Ning community for that event (http://newstools2008.ning.com) to raise the themes of homophily, serendipity, and xenophilia over there, and how news tools could address those issues. I think your broccoli/chocolate metaphor will be especially helpful in that discussion.

    More to come… I’ll be writing about it on Contentious.com and Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, rest assured…

    – Amy Gahran

  5. Amy Gahran says:

    Heh… I forgot, I already raised that issues on the NewsTools Ning community last week: http://urltea.com/34jc

    OK, one less thing I have to do this morning, then :-)

    – Amy Gahran

  6. Thanks for this post, Ethan–it was tremendously helpful in helping me to further formulate my own thinking on the issue.

  7. Homophily in the real-world is just as present – the tendency for minority populations to stick together, regardless of purpose, is very real. I don’t have any quantifiable data but experiences at a public high school and now private university suggest this is a universal practice. What is the value of promoting diversity if the variety never mixes?

    Also, Facebook recently implemented a new module on the homepage – “People You Might Know.” I’m not sure if this shows Facebook approaches homophily as a feature or bug. On one side, they could be reminding you to “friend” people about whom you’ve forgotten. Or, they could try to show you folks who you wouldn’t have friended otherwise. In my experience, they have shown me, quite accurately, the acquaintances that I had not digitally friended. Could they not do a “People You Should Know” module?

  8. zephoria says:

    I don’t know that you need to go as far as instilling xenophilia. We know that one of the best ways to get people interested in other cultures is to have a direct connection to them. (This is part of the premise of Birthright btw.) How do we get more people to have direct experience? (For starters, the American norm of 2 weeks vacation per year doesn’t help.)

    Another thing that we know is that most people are exposed to new things online primarily when bored. They surf, they wander, they click, they read. This is true for teens and adults who are avoiding work. Perhaps we should start thinking about the topology of the networks. Often, people talk about webpages having X hits. What if we started thinking of them as having Y entry paths? What if we worked to find ways not to increase page rank, but to increase likelihood of stumbling on.

    More than anything, serendipity is a personal feeling, a sense that you have… kinda like deja vu. I love people who design situations to be serendipitous. It actually can be done that way because the idea is to create an experience. I used to have a math prof who loved to analyze the topology of serendipity. I should dig some of those papers up some day.

    Ok, late nite ranting… back to dissertation hell.

    (Oh, and if you want some interesting things on homophily, ping me. The term primarily comes from Social Network Analysis in sociology and there are some great scholars in this field. One is currently working on the homophily of content on Digg.)

  9. Ken Allan says:

    In his 1988 publication ‘On Becoming Human’, New Zealand born Lloyd Geering describes three culture phases of human development. He recalls that the Axial Period (a term coined by Karl Jaspers) centred about 500 BC was a period of quite extraordinary cultural change. He divided the Axial Period into two phases.

    “Phase I culture is ethnically oriented. It may be tribal . . . . . . or it may be urbanised like that of ancient Rome. Whatever it is which gives identity, character, meaning to the tribe, or race, is also what gives its meaning and identity to its individual members. Their chief purpose in life is to perform their duties as responsible members of the ethnic group and of course there is usually strong social pressure encouraging them to do just that.”

    Geering describes that “Phase II culture called people to an allegiance higher than one of racial identity.” By the 19th century that culture embodied three main regions of the world, the Christian West, the Islamic Middle East and the Buddhist Orient.

    Geering describes Phase III as starting “not with God but with humankind, and sees all God-talk as itself the product of the human imagination . . .”.

    Geering claims that “in Phase II we are constantly facing choices for which we have no clear guidance. Becoming human in Phase III can be very wearing and demanding indeed. It is little wonder that many choose to revert to the security and comparative simplicity of Phase II culture, and even Phase I culture, where all important issues are determined by external authority and/or tradition.” He goes on to say “a second set of reasons for the difficulties being faced in the humanising of society is that the new freedom to think and to explore, which burst like a dam in the 18th century, has brought forth a flood of new things to be coped with – a knowledge explosion, the multiplication of the sciences and a rapidly expanding technology. All this together has had a serious depersonalising effect. Martin Buber aptly spoke of it as an expansion of the It-world, threatening to suffocate the world of the spirit as it operates in human relations. In the days when labour, trading and business were on a small intimate scale there were also opportunities for personal relations. Now we live in a vast, complex, automated world. We build enormous cities to be close to each other and hardly know a soul. We become like ants in giant impersonal networks which we have created. What should have been opportunities for us to become free and more human may turn out to be dehumanising.” He further explains, “most people are concerned with very much smaller horizons of interest. Our very parochial interests are much more like Phase I tribalism. Even the competing claims of Phase II cultures are now seen to have become too narrow. Are we humans sufficiently concerned with the destiny of the whole human race to make it our number one priority?”

    These passages were written about what was happening late 20th century within the world’s societies. Here in New Zealand, as in other similar western societies, we are particularly well situated to observe first-hand both of the cultural transitions still taking place.

    Geering’s sentiments and concerns are not unlike those expressed in very recent blogs about the way people are trying to shut each other off and that there is a need to work a lot harder if we are to avoid reinforcing our own prejudices and stereotypes. I wonder if what is happening (as Geering explained was happening in the 20th century) is that people’s parochial interests are reverting to a form of (Phase I) tribalism and that this still persists today in many ‘western’ societies.

    Reference – Lloyd Geering, On Becoming Human, Published 1988, McKenzie Thornton Cooper Ltd, ISBN 0-9597726-6-9

  10. Troy Rederburg says:

    Great food for thought. I stumbled across your blog Mr. Zuckerman while searching for something/someone else. Oddly enough your words fit well. Was this by chance, or other? I was a little sheepish about about clicking on the “other related topics”, since it would lead me to others who may already think like I do……..

    I will visit more of your blog in the future.

    TAR

  11. Nathan Kurz says:

    > How do you create serendipity? Is this something that’s
    > algorithmically possible in collaborative filtering systems
    > or other recommendation engines?

    I’ve thought about this for a while, and I’m pretty sure the answer is a solid ‘Yes, it is possible’. If you design your recommendation engine properly, you will find serendipitous gems. The corollary to this is that on certain points Torkington is wrong: serendipity is not something you can inject into a system by dealing “mid-range results” from the middle of the deck.

    The simple problem with many (most?) existing recommendation system is that they aren’t actually recommendation systems. They are prediction systems that are being used to generate recommendations. Predict how well the user will like each of the items in the dataset, and recommend the items with the highest predicted values. And since Root Mean Square Error is easy to measure (and hence easy to write papers about) this is what many algorithms try to optimize.

    The problem with this is that it tends to produce the safe recommendations in the user’s comfort zone, rather than the risky recommendations that might expand their horizons. But the solution to this is not to use this same prediction system and randomize the results, but to design a system based around recommendations rather than around predictions. Instead of predicting what is most likely to be liked, give the recommendations most likely to be loved.

    How does one do this? Avoid item-to-item recommendation systems, because these systems have to assume that all users who like a pair of items like them for the same reason. Avoid clustering systems, since taste is not symmetric and most users will be closer to the periphery of a cluster than the center. Do use person-to-person matches, since if item is truly a gem there is probably someone out there shares your taste in other areas and has already discovered it.

    I think the best way to keep serendipity in a system is to base the system around people, rather than around items. Design systems that help users find others who share some portion of their taste, and make recommendations based on these real people. If you design tools to explore these networks of people, with all their varied tastes and preferences, the serendipity will be there. And it will be real rather than faked.

  12. One reason I read The New Republic is that although they and I agree on many basic concepts, they like to run stories that consider both sides of an issue. I never know what I’ll run into there. What’s hard sometimes is to find material that has a very different point of view and set of assumptions than your own, but that nevertheless is intelligent and sincere. I recently read “A History Of The English Speaking Peoples from 1900″ by Andrew Roberts, and it has helped me understand the right-wing, triumphalist point of view much better. Even though he’s wrong about a lot, it was a very worthwhile read.

  13. A fascinating post Ethan! I have proved in my PhD thesis that you are correct :) This is what I found:

    * Social network graphs have been seen to have a significant amount of clustering. This means that it is generally possible to decompose a social network graph into smaller clusters, such that people within the same cluster have a high density of ties with each other, while people in different clusters are sparsely connected with each other. Mark Granovetter, in his seminal work called the-strength-of-weak-ties, refers to ties between people in the same cluster as strong ties, and ties linking people across clusters as weak ties.

    * Now, because of homophily, people in the same social network cluster tend to share a similar context. That is, your strong ties tend to share the same context as you.

    * What I found was that information such as news is more understandable to a recipient if it is presented in the context of the recipient. But the news needs to be “contextualized” to situate it in the right context, and this can be done efficiently by people who share the same context as the recipient. What I call contextualizers in my thesis, are what you call xenophiles, and these xenophiles are nobody other than the strong ties of the recipient!

    * While contextualization is important, it can also lead to formation of biased perspectives within a cluster, as you rightly pointed out. Therefore, what is also needed is to circulate information across clusters so that it provides more completeness of views to the people. This is where weak ties come in, because weak ties connect diverse clusters to each other, and serve to help people understand each others contexts much better.

    * To sum up, strong ties provide more context than weak ties, while weak ties provide more completeness than strong ties. Context leads to better understanding, while completeness leads to formation of a broader perspective.

    * The following paper talks about this, and also proposes graph-theoretic measures to compute context and completeness of messages based on the underlying social network structure connecting message authors and recipients:
    http://www.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~a3seth/socialtiesv3submitted.pdf

    I have a better explanation in my thesis but that is still under revision.

    * The conclusion really is that the world needs more contextualizers, or xenophiles. And this is really what GlobalVoices is doing! And this is also really what I want to enable through the community radio initiative I would soon be starting in India: http://gramvaani.org.

    Here’s some more stuff from my thesis:

    * I have used these concepts of context and completeness to propose a recommender system, much like Amazon.Com or the collaborative filtering system you mention, which can recommend to people blog posts that would either help provide more contextual information to them, or more complete information. Much remains to be done, and it’ll still me a couple of years to prototype this system!

    * I also have a method to figure out how credible a particular blog post might be. Credibility is a very subjective concept, and is context sensitive. There are some weird methods I use to compute credibility, but they seem to work quite well :)

    * In some of my other papers I also talk about a concept called information capital, which is similar to social capital, but indicates the ability of a person to receive contextual and complete information from his/her social network. Something that could be used to expand a social network in an optimal manner, but I need to work more on formalizing this.

    What is also remaining is to figure out how serendipity works. It is absolutely great to read your posts Ethan! It is indeed posts by people like you, Clay Shirky, Joi Ito, and many more, that get researchers like me thinking. Finding answers is often as not important as asking questions, and that’s what you do!

  14. Flüge says:

    isn´t homophily a kind of philanthropy, as I understand it not to have any sexual aspects. so where´s the problem? i love my father, my brothers and my best friend as well.

  15. Kaitlin says:

    I’m launching a blog about Islam for UW-Madison and reaching out to bloggers around the world has been a struggle. The technology is there. I talked with a blogger from Tunisia on skype last week. But finding them through google is nearly impossible. Global voices is a great resource but a difficult blogger network for Americans to access and really be a part of.

    I’m American, not Muslim and I’m not a scholar on Islam. But I have to do this blog going for me and I’m wide open to any advice, perspectives and connections around the world. It’s a lot for one person to filter. Any ideas? Is Islam an issue people want to talk about?

  16. gezf says:

    […] of coverage while the size is indicative of incoming links. I was reminded of Ethan’s recent musings on homophily, which is the tendency for people to surround themselves with similar folks. If you […]

  17. Kirsty Parker says:

    I found this article really interesting! I particularly liked how the Internet has made this behaviour more common and perhaps worse from Amazons ‘recommendations’ or Facebook’s ‘people you may know’ tool.

    I’ve written this point up in my own blog so feel free to have a look :)

  18. Arvedui says:

    Surprised nobody’s mentioned http://bananaslug.com/ yet so far. It’s been around since 2003… maybe it’s just the name, because the concept is great!

  19. Tl Perde says:

    One reason I read The New Republic is that although they and I agree on many basic concepts, they like to run stories that consider both sides of an issue. I never know what Ill run into there. Whats hard sometimes is to find material that has a very different point of view and set of assumptions than your own

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  21. I never know what Ill run into there. Whats hard sometimes is to find material that has a very different point of view and set of assumptions than your own

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  24. trk porno says:

    I found this article really interesting! I particularly liked how the Internet has made this behaviour more common and perhaps worse from Amazons recommendations or Facebooks people you may know tool.

  25. fotomodel says:

    My instinct has it one needs enough foment for new context to develop and serendipity about foreign places and ideas to take

  26. pronet says:

    Martin Buber aptly spoke of it as an expansion of the It-world, threatening to suffocate the world of the spirit as it operates in human relations. In the days when labour, trading and business were on a small intimate scale there were also opportunities for personal relations. Now we live in a vast, complex, automated world. We build enormous cities to be close to each other and hardly know a soul.

  27. fotomodel says:

    thanks all good article

  28. sikis says:

    I found this article really interesting! I particularly liked how the Internet has made this behaviour more common and perhaps worse from Amazons recommendations or Facebooks people you may know tool.

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  30. sikis says:

    ds me of a talk Ethan Zuckerman gave at Brown in 2008 warning about the dangers of homophily. Growing up in Ohio, I knew a lot of diehard fans of Fox N

  31. efsal says:

    I found this article really interesting! I particularly liked how the Internet has made this behaviour more common and perhaps worse from Amazons recommendations or Facebooks people you may know too

  32. oteller says:

    My instinct has it one needs enough foment for new context to develop and serendipity about foreign places and ideas to take

  33. iddaa says:

    Im launching a blog about Islam for UW-Madison and reaching out to bloggers around the world has been a struggle. The technology is there. I talked with a blogger from Tunisia on skype last week. But finding them through google is nearly impossible. Global voices is a great resource but a difficult blogger network for Americans to access and really be a part of.

  34. iddaa says:

    thank you for your idea

  35. I read The New Republic is that although they and I agree on many basic concepts, they like to run stories that consider both sides of an issue

  36. says:

    La corsa alla velocità ci fa ambire a connessioni sempre più performanti, a processori che riducono il tempo di risposta dei programmi, alla corsa per la pubblicazione della notizia per primi su blog e giornali. La velocità ostacola la serendipità, perchè stizzisce l’utente se cercando arance trova il processo di fabbricazione arigianale dei posaceneri.

  37. sikis says:

    One reason I read The New Republic is that although they and I agree on many basic concepts, they like to run stories that consider both sides of an issue. I never know what I�ll run into there. What�s hard sometimes is to find material that has a very different point of view and set of assumptions than your own

  38. Bona says:

    Homophily really CAN make you stupid. There’s this saying that I love and try to make the best of it: “Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.”
    ― H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. RE: One To Many Communication & Homophily « Sean Glynn's Weblog - [...] To Many Communication & Homophily After reading Ethan Zuckerman’s article on ‘Homophily, serendipity, and xenophilia‘, I realized a few …
  2. Making news content more transparent « Sameer Padania - [...] publication - re-reading my friend Ethan Zuckerman’s thinking on media attention, xenophilia, homophily and other obstacles to diversity of …
  3. Yahoo Research: 50% of tweets consumed are generated by 20,000 elite users | digiphile - [...] I’ve tried hard to escape that effect after reading Ethan Zuckerman’s post on homophily, serendipity and xenophilia nearly three …
  4. Academic Research in the Age of Facebook | Savage Minds - [...] concerns are nothing new. People have been writing about homophily for some time. But the rise of social networking, …
  5. Academic Research in the Age of Facebook » OWNI.eu, News, Augmented - [...] concerns are nothing new. People have been writing about homophily for some time. But the rise of social networking, and …
  6. Like diversity? Facebook will let you have it, but not keep it – contentious.com - [...] is because, as I’ve written before (and so has Ethan Zuckerman), I think too much homophily is a problem …
  7. Swiss Army Librarian » On Google+ and the Role of Social Networks :: Brian Herzog - [...] even make it into the green circle at all*. This can actually make it harder to find answers, as …
  8. And a Little Child Shall Lead Them: The Future of Media Convergence - [...] our lives but they also limit our perspectives if we fail to explore.  (Ethan Zuckerman wrote a great piece …
  9. Broccoli, cioccolata | Il blog nella didattica - [...] Zuckerman – Homophily, serendipity, xenophilia Share and [...]
  10. Digital Chinese Whispers: Death Threats and Rumors Inside China’s Online Marketplace of Ideas « mambo-admin.com - [...] by group polarization. Social psychologists have long identified the human tendency towards homophily, the seeking out of like-minded individuals …
  11. RAINA + KUMRA» Blog Archive » Innovating philanthropy while innovating media: thoughts from the Knight News Challenge review - [...] Countering homophily was another frequent and interesting topic this year, and there were some great suggestions on how [...]
  12. Are we stuck in filter bubbles? Here are five potential paths out » Nieman Journalism Lab | camerareviewer.co.uk - [...] horizons. Stuck in our own little sycophantic universes, we’ll be isolated, only dimly aware that other people exist or …
  13. Homophily, serendipity, xenophilia | ... My hea... - [...]   [...]
  14. Homophily | Did You Know _____ - […] Zuckerman, Ethan. “Homophily, Serendipity, Xenophilia.” Web log post. …My Heart’s in Accra. N.p., 25 Apr. 2008. Web. 8 Sept. …
  15. Escaping Your Filter Bubble | gaurav keerthi - […] interested in, and thereby reinforce (rather than challenge) his beliefs. What this person needs to stumble upon instead is …
  16. DPI-659 Assignment: Blog Post 2 due Sept. 30 | Intae - […] and recommendation.” It can make us “stuck in our own little sycophantic universes, we’ll be isolated, only (Stray, […]
  17. Skin - Thick or Thin - […] people just like yourself is called homophily. I once heard Ethan Zuckerman convincingly argue that homophily can make you …
  18. The Parochial Web : Alliance for Peacebuilding - […] a squandered chance at increasing intercultural understanding. In Zuckerman’s words, it can “make you stupid”. He argues that “it’s …
  19. Design Strategies for Serendipity and How They Might Fail | Grabber - […] everyday online situation. For a detailed discussion of why this is important and what the risks of homophily and …
  20. Serendipity Beyond Mass Personalization | Grabber - […] the concerns with personalization are well-documented and include the idea that personalization reinforces homophily and creates echo chambers, filter …
  21. This secret will determine whether Ello creates interestingness. | Deanna Zandt - […] ecosystem: homophily. A fancy word for “birds of a feather flock together” that I learned from Ethan Zuckerman. So, …
  22. Homophily – Birds of a Feather Flock Together | My Blog - […] who’ve got common ethnic, religious and economic background with you. – (See more at: http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/04/25/homophily-serendipity-xenophilia/#sthash.OEaaVKGb.dpuf) I agree that people …
  23. Birds of a Feather… | Micah Linscott - […] http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/04/25/homophily-serendipity-xenophilia/ […]
  24. Homophily: Those of a feather flock together. | Nayela's Design blog - […] http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/04/25/homophily-serendipity-xenophilia/ […]

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