Uttercast: We Still Need the Echo Chamber


Now sit down, I’m not going to rant for or against the social media Echo Chamber. Peter Kim lays out a couple of excellent posts about breaking out. I do say we need to keep it (not that Peter is saying it should go away, but I bet some people saw it that way. My three thoughts about what we need to break social media out:

– The Echo Chamber. As I said, it shouldn’t go away. Innovative ideas grow, and the early adopters talking amongst themselves should remain as some sort of "master class."

– Education and Mix. OK, that’s two. Education is the continuing process of showing the basics to the newly-interested, and showing the benefits so people can make the case for adoption. Mix? You need to find people by going where they are: "old" media and marketing methods. Purism won’t get you new converts.

Patience. New ideas do not sell quickly; they need time to gestate. What seems not to be working now could bear fruit soon.

What is your view of the Echo Chamber?

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  1. I’ve been thinking about Twitter, along the lines of Dunbar numbers, preferential attachment, and integrated management utilities. All of those thoughts come from other people talking about Twitter. Echo chamber? No – not in my opinion.

    The echoing we need to get past are the people and posts intended to game the system. When people are too lazy to do a little research or even read an entire blog post before reacting and responding, that’s bad echo. When people write posts that are no more than linkbait or even plagiarize content to goose their subscriber numbers, that’s bad echo.

    When people talk about items of interest and provide a personal take on the subject – that’s good echo.

  2. Peter– you have shed even more light on your thinking– thanks.

    As you can see, I am guarding against the knee-jerk reaction that people think we should abolish the “good” echo chamber (like “good” carbs?).

  3. One of the things that’s interesting about an echo chamber (a real one I mean) is that it is an illusion — echo chambers are used in recording to make it seem like you’re a bigger space than you really are. I think that’s the danger — a bunch of us talking in an enclosed space and convincing ourselves that everyone thinks what we think, ‘cus all we can hear are reflections of our own thoughts.

    I think, to Peter’s concept of a ‘good echo,’ that what is really needed are sounding boards. Having a group of people to sound ideas against, and to have those ideas come back in different ways that make you think about the problem different, I’d say there’s HUGE value in that. Having a group of people who all tell each other how smart they are for thinking the same thing? Maybe not so much.

  4. Food for thought: Obama is the #1 most followed Twitterer and he only has 144,000 followers. That’s 144,000 out of a supposed 5M userbase. That 5M userbase isn’t even close to being representative of the 300M citizens of the U.S. let alone the 6.5B inhabitants of the world.

    Aren’t we slightly ignorant for even calling it an echo chamber? For us on the inside, it might seem that way, but to the rest of the world, it’s not an echo….

    In fact, there’s barely even a whisper.

    Until our supposed echo chamber can amplify itself to a magnitude where we’re actually heard, then there’s no need for us to dismiss it.

  5. Jay, you are so smart for bringing that up.

    Alexa, Echo is not based on the number of voices, but the sound bouncing off of closed walls. I would say the smaller and more closed-off the space, the more pronounced the echo– until you get to a level of one-to-one intimacy, where echo is not noticed.
    Open it up to the whole world? no echo.

    Studio designers spend a lot of money trying to create an echo-less room in a place that is naturally full of reverberation– an indoor studio. They call it a “dead room. (Jay, as a musician you probably know more about that than I do)

    Can you create a dead room artificially? Transplant that back to the “social media echo chamber” analogy and I would say probably not.

  6. Ah how I love extended metaphors! :-)

    Alexa, you’re right on the mark in one sense — echoes are not about amplification, echoes are usually muddy and impossible to understand, if you manage to hear them at all.

    I brought up sounding boards, which I brought up in the sense of sounding off against someone, but actually a “sounding board” in terms of musical instruments is actually something that reflects sound for the purpose of making it louder. So the idea of using others to amplify an idea is a very appropriate one.

    Okay… I’m getting a little carried away with this idea, but it seems like we’re basically in agreement on some amount of ‘feedback’ (another acoustic science term) from within a small group (that closed metaphorical space) being a good thing, but that that shouldn’t be mistaken for getting a message out to the broader world, nor should the closed space been seen as representative of that larger world, either. Listening to people with crazy ideas that you already agree with is what talk radio is for, right? ;-)

  7. I’ll be honest, my feeling is that it’s a metaphor that is like so many others in “marketing/advertising/PR speak” – overused.

    It’s one of these phrases that puts newcomers to the medium off, much like “think outside the box” and “ahead of the curve”.

    Sorry, but these phrases should have been out-of-date the minute they were thought of. Can’t we just say “noisy” or “muddled” – or does that not set us apart enough? ;-)

    In answer to the question:

    Patience, understanding, reasoning, and the knowledge that it’s not for everyone so don’t continue to evangelize when someone clearly isn’t interested. :)

  8. Woo. Amen, to Danny’s comment.

    I guess what I was trying to get at with my comment was the fact that instead of shifting the conversation to the noise that we do hear, we’re better off trying to put into perspective who isn’t hearing us and why some people might never listen to what’s being said in the so-called echo-chamber in the first place.

    The disparity between social media evangelists, the average-day Internet user, and the non-user are so extreme that we can’t afford to focus on on ourselves. To give you an example of what I’m talking about, when I spend time with my family in New York, I can’t even explain Twitter to my grandmother because she’s too busy oogling over the fact that she can change the typeface of a font in Microsoft Word.

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