Thursday, July 07, 2005

The problem with getting our news from blogs

We are all becoming bloggers (heck if a luddite like me will do it, anyone will). I decide to report on interested information about human factors when I see it. Other people blog about politics, or just keep daily journals on line. The net (pun intended) effect is that anyone can find information about anything. But there are very few indications of the quality of these posts. The major check on blog quality is that anyone can post a response right there on the blog. So if there are lots of posted objections, the information may not be true.

But from a human factors perspective, we can see a potential limitation of this quality check. How many of us read the responses? I read lots of blogs, but I don't even glance at the responses. They could be posting complete garbage and I would never know. I judge based only on the credentials of the author. And in some cases, I judge based on whether I like what I am reading. If I agree with it, it must be right. So we all gravitate towards the blogs we agree with. There are fewer and fewer disputations because no one of a competing opinion is reading the blog.

This is one of the reasons why the intensity of political debate has gone up exponentially. Learning takes place when we read something that challenges our existing schema, intelligently analyze the contents, and then either modify our schema or reject the new information. What we are doing now is simply reading content that supports our existing schema, thereby strengthening them. This is a weak form of learning. And if we don't ever look for competing perspectives, it is very ineffective. Plus, our schema get so strong they become impossible to overcome. We become so set in our opinions that everyone with a competing opinion seems like a complete fool.