ネットは相互理解を促進しない

 今日はネットは相互理解を促進していないです。

The rise of the Daily Me threatens democracy
By Cass Sunstein
Published: January 10 2008 19:35 | Last updated: January 10 2008 19:35

More than a decade ago the technology specialist, Nicholas Negroponte, pro?phesied the emergence of the Daily Me ? a fully personalised newspaper. It would allow you to include topics that interest you and screen out those that bore or annoy you. If you wanted to focus on Iraq and tennis, or exclude Iran and golf, you could do that.

Many people now use the internet to create something like a Daily Me. This behaviour is reinforced by the rise of social networking forums, collaborative filtering and viral marketing. For politics, the phenomenon is especially important in campaigns. Candidates in the US presidential race can construct information cocoons in which readers are deluged with material that is, in their eyes, politically correct. Supporters of Hillary Clinton construct a Daily Me that includes her campaign’s perspective but offers nothing from Barack Obama, let alone Mitt Romney.

What is wrong with the emerging situation? We can find a clue in a small experiment in democracy conducted in Colorado in 2005. About 60 US citizens were put into 10 groups. They deliberated on controversial issues, such as whether the US should sign an inter national treaty to combat global warming and whether states should allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. The groups consisted of predominantly either leftwing or rightwing members, with the former drawn from left-of-centre Boulder and the latter from Colorado Springs, which tends to be right of centre. The groups, not mixed, were screened to ensure members conformed to stereotypes. (If people in Boulder liked Vice-President Dick Cheney, they were cordially excused.) People were asked to state their opinions anonymously before and after the group discussion .

In almost every group, people ended up with more extreme positions. The Boulder groups favoured an inter national treaty to control global warming before discussion; they favoured it far more strongly afterwards. In Colorado Springs, people were neutral on that treaty before discussion; discussion led them to oppose it strongly. Same-sex unions became much more popular in Boulder and less so in Colorado Springs.

Aside from increasing extremism, discussion had another effect: it squelched diversity. Before members talked, many groups displayed internal disagreement. These were greatly reduced: discussion widened the rift between Boulder and Colorado Springs

Countless versions of this experiment are carried out online every day. The result is group polarisation, which occurs when like-minded people speak together and end up in a more extreme position in line with their original inclinations.

There are three reasons for this. First is the exchange of information. In Colorado Springs, the members offered many justifications for not signing a climate treaty and a lot fewer for doing so. Since people listened to one another, they became more sceptical. The second reason is that when people find their views corroborated, they become more confident and so are more willing to be extreme. The third reason involves social comparison. People who favour a position think of themselves in a certain way and if they are with people who agree with them, they shift a bit to hold on to their preferred self-conception.

Group polarisation clearly occurs on the internet. For example, 80 per cent of readers of the leftwing blog Daily Kos are Democrats and fewer than 1 per cent are Republicans. Many popular bloggers link frequently to those who agree with them and to contrary views, if at all, only to ridicule them. To a significant extent, people are learning about supposed facts from narrow niches and like-minded others.

This matters for the electoral process. A high degree of self-sorting leads to more confidence, extremism and increased contempt for those with contrary views. We can already see this in the presidential campaign. It will only intensify when the two parties square off. To the extent that Democratic and Republican candidates seem to live in different political universes, group polarisation is playing a large role.

Polarisation, of course, long preceded the internet. Yet given people’s new power to create echo chambers, the result will be serious obstacles not merely to civility but also to mutual understanding and constructive problem solving. The Daily Me leads inexor ably also to the Daily Them. That is a real problem for democracy.

The writer teaches at the University of Chicago and is the author of Republic.com 2.0

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

 FTの1月10日の社説です。

 インターネットの発達は、各種の情報が簡単に手に入れられるようになり、人々はいろいろな側面から物事を考えることで、相互理解を深めていくと評価されることが一般的です。しかし、今日の社説ではむしろ対立を深める結果になっていることが指摘されています。

 念頭にあるのは昨今のアメリカ大統領選挙です。まだ候補者選びの段階ですが、各立候補者の間では、個人攻撃を含めた激しい論戦が繰り広げられています。たくさんの候補者たちの政策姿勢などはインターネットで公開されていますから、国民はお気に入りの候補者だけでなく他の人についても主義主張を知ることができます。本来ならば、たとえ対立候補であっても、まずは彼らの意見に耳を傾け、検討してみなければなりません。それが民主主義です。

 しかしながら、実際には自らが支持する候補者の情報しか集めていません。支持する根拠をより強固にしようと異なる視点や意見について調べることもなく、自分の視点を変えようとはしないのです。それどころか、同じ考え方の人が集まるサイトにばかりを訪れ、興味がないサイトにはほとんど行かなくなります。これでは民主主義が機能しません。

 多種多様な情報を得ることで、相互理解を促進するはずのインターネットが、二極化を強化しているのが現状です。とくにアメリカは二大政党制であるため、政策論争は二極化する傾向にありました。その場合、自分は正しくて相手が間違っているという論調が主流になり、相互に情報をやり取りする交流はありませんでした。現在もこうした図式は何も変わっていないのです。逆に悪化していると言えます。

 今日の社説はアメリカだけに限った話ではないでしょう。非常に普遍性のある内容だと思います。たとえば、私もネットで日々情報を集めていますが、たいていは決まったサイトしか見ていません。半年に一回くらい入れ替えを行なうことありますが、それも部分的にすぎません。いちおうは幅広い意見や視点が得られるように配慮をしているつもりですが、他のサイトを見にいくことはほとんどありません。

 情報収集の多様性を自負する私でもこの有り様です。一般の人々がインターネットを通じて多くの情報を集め、相互理解を促進しているとはなかなか考えられません。やはり自分と感覚が合う人が集うサイトに入り浸っているだけではないでしょうか。それが趣味に限ったことであればまだ良いのですが、政治の領域にまで影響してくると社会問題になってしまいます。

 状況の改善は困難です。ですが、少しずつ何とかするしかないでしょう。たとえば、いつもは目に入らないサイトをのぞいてみることです。インターネットは二極化を容易に強化するかもしれませんが、そこから転換する行動も容易に起こせます。検索サイトを活用するなどして、他のサイトにたどり着ことができます。そうして少しずつ情報収集の範囲を広げていきましょう。

 インターネットの限界はインターネットで克服していくことができるはずです。

自己紹介

benyamin ♂

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