1. Suggest a question for us to answer
Jul 282013

“What is something you know you do differently from most people?”

I’ve taken forever to post my answer to this question, because I don’t actually think I am all that different from most people.

I can only think of superficial things I do that most people in my social circle, don’t do. For example, I:

  1. Collect and use fountain pens
  2. Speak three languages
  3. Love chihuahuas

So even if many of the people I know don’t do these things, there are many people in the world who do.

If you go look at a site like the Fountain Pen Network, you’ll see that there are many many people around the world who obsess about, and use fountain pens. Not just me.

Being multilingual? Well, there are millions of people in the world who speak more than one language. There are indigenous people in Australia who speak a few languages, for instance. There are many migrants in Australia speak their mother tongues as well as English. There are many countries in the world where the populations are bilingual or multilingual, because they are made up of different cultural groups. So I’m certainly not unique.

Loving chihuahuas? Well, they may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect pet, but I’m sure I don’t need to prove that there are many chihuahua fans out there. I’m no different to any other fan.

And really, I’m sure I can find people I know who like/do some of these things too.

I wondered whether being online and being able to connect with people from all over my country and all over the world has meant that I am somehow doing things differently from most people. If I look at my social media use, however, I see that most of the people I connect with are members of my profession (librarians), are in Australia, speak English, and have a certain level of education (a Bachelor’s Degree at least).

I’m reading Ethan Zuckerman’s Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection at the moment. He uses the concept of “homophily” – “love of the same” – to show that we tend to congregate with others who are most like us. “Our filter bubbles are three-dimensional: they insulate us from content that is not just outside of our ideology but also outside of our orbits of geography and familiarity.” (212.6/618)

What can we do to break our filter bubbles?

Zuckerman suggests that:

…all of us can take steps to increase the diversity of influences we’re encountering and make stronger connections with perspectives.

Monitor Consumption: Self-tracking of the media we each consume is a first step toward understanding the biases we bring to the world. Maintaining a simple diary for a week is likely to be revelatory, while tools like RescueTime enable you to track your behavior over the long term, which is useful if monitoring turns into an effort to change your behavior.

Escape Your Orbit Slowly: If you discover that you spend a great deal of time consuming the same few types of media—as most of us do—you may be tempted to try to change your media diet all at once. A better first step is to pursue an interest you already have and look for international connections within that space. Whether it means following your interest in economics to read a Ugandan economist’s blog or pursuing an interest in sumo to learn more about Mongolia, you’re more likely to change your habits personally if you’re following a topic that already fascinates you.

Find and Follow Bridge Figures: The best introduction to another country or culture is someone who understands that culture, and yours as well. The Internet is filled with people passionate about explaining their home cultures; our site Global Voices (globalvoicesonline.org) features many such individuals, but countless others exist. Communities like Meedan, sites like Tea Leaf Nation, and tools like Härnu all endeavor to introduce you to bridge figures who can help you understand another cultural context.

Seek Serendipity through Curators: Taking conscious steps toward diversifying the media you consume will take you only so far. We need to stumble on unexpected influences to make novel connections. This means granting some of our attention to curators—human and mechanical—who can introduce us to unexpected influences. Curators include editors of newspapers and literary magazines, new media curators like Maria Popova of Brain Pickings, and semiautomated systems like StumbleUpon and Longreads. In every case, seeking serendipity means embracing risk, being willing to let a curator lead you astray in exchange for moments of discovery.

(510.3 – 514.2/618)

I haven’t finished this book yet. (See this review if your interest has been piqued.) I’ll have to blog what I learn from it when I’ve read it.

So Kathryn, “What is something you know you do differently from most people?”

And when you’ve done with that question, “What’s your favourite question to ask people?”


Sites referred to in the Ethan Zuckerman excerpt:
Global Voices
Tea Leaf Nation

  One Response to “Q25: What is something you know you do differently from most people?”

  1. […] Con lobs my question back at me: “What is something you know you do differently from most people?”. […]

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