Blown To Bits

An Extreme Case of Homophily

Sunday, June 1st, 2008 by Harry Lewis

No, not hemophilia, and this term has nothing to do with homophiles either. Homophily is your tendency to hang with people like you. There is good reason to think that the communications revolution encourages it. When we we spent our time talking with the people fate had put in our neighborhoods and workplaces, we got used to dealing with ideas and attitudes different from our own. With the infinite connectivity of the Internet, even the oddest splinter groups can draw huge numbers from a world-wide pool, and we can happily spend all our time talking to our alter egos. (The opposite of homophily is xenophilia. I took a lot of heat in 1995 for trying to encourage a bit more xenophilia by changing the method by which Harvard students are assigned to the residential Houses. Ethan Zuckerman has a good blog about these terms here.)

CBS News is reporting that extremist Muslim women are banding together anonymously to protest being excluded from Al Qaeda. Some complain of being powerless, and others point with pride to the rising number of suicide bombings being carried out by women. As the story explains, Al Qaeda uses the Internet, but “the Internet has also given those disenfranchised by al Qaeda – in this case, women – a voice they never had before.”

One Response to “An Extreme Case of Homophily”

  1. Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness after the Digital Explosion Says:

    [...] Homophily rules. Universal connectivity won’t bring us together; it will simply create the opportunity for likeminded souls, no matter how extreme and ridiculous their views, to come together in their own ignorant corners of the Internet. Or the nation. And that is How We Could Know Less #2. [...]