I’m finding the current wide-ranging discussion about “epistemic closure” intriguing (the term was cast by Julian Sanchez but is now circulating widely among many conservative and libertarian bloggers who have serious issues with the Republican Party in its current form). There are lots of places to pick this up: Slate, Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish, etc.
But I’m dropping this brief line in just to puff up my own vanity (a little). In this article, David Brooks points to a study about internet use in which its authors conclude that Cass Sunstein’s thesis about ideological “cocooning” on the internet hasn’t really happened (he cautioned that it might, not that it would, but it certainly felt urgent at the time in the early aughts). Instead, the internet makes it so easy to find opposing points of view, that people have a tendency to at least check them out instead of avoid them.
This was part of the argument I made in my dissertation: that Sunstein’s caution, while intelligent and substantive, just doesn’t seem to actually be happening if you look at data on the ground. For me, it was a more ethnographic study of viewers of The West Wing and their responses to the series in connection to their politics, and it was the same basic conclusion put forth here.
It’s just nice to see others realizing you’re as right as you knew you were (he said, seeing the painful, laughable irony in his own little epistemic closing as he said it).