Introducing Tuesday Topical Punch

Just stirrin' things up a little ...

Starting today, you can tune in each Tuesday for “Topical Punch.” We’ll look for a juicy news or commentary item that gets us thinking and will maybe get you thinking, too. Of course, we’re aiming for topics that hit close to Public Allies’ core values or that deal with service in some way. Today’s topic fits the former category.

What’s Your Isolation Index?

We at Public Allies talk a lot about diversity and inclusion because we believe in it. Leaders can’t truly lead — much less solve the looming problems of the day — without bringing all sorts of ideas, opinions and people to the able.

So what does that mean in our day-to-day lives? For starters, it’s intriguing to think about where we get our information. Because information sources are so splintered, there’s a widely held perception that the average person seeks out sources that reinforce his or her own opinion.

Slate puts that idea to the test in a recent posting on this topic. It includes a profiling tool (they promise it’s private) in which you can see what your browsing history says about how open you are to a variety of information sources — and hence a variety of opinions. Or so the thinking goes.  “This isn’t about your own political views,” write the authors (Chadwick Matlin, Jeremy Singer-Vine and Chris Wilson share the byline). “It’s about those of your fellow readers. So if your online diet only consists of the Drudge Report, the New York Post, and, you’re going to come across as pretty isolated. If you make occasional forays to the New York Times and Huffington Post, you’ll seem catholic. Our calculations don’t include how long you spent on each page—only that you’ve been.”

The post includes a nifty Ideological Media Map, in which different websites are evaluated according to levels of “liberal” and “conservative” visitors, then graphed to show their relative popularity. Some of the descriptions might surprise you (Slate is about half and half) and others will confirm your assumptions (The Huffington Post is 70% liberal ). Yeah, they’re labels, but it’s a starting place for a worthwhile discussion.

The article centers on a recent study by two researchers from the University of Chicago that found many people do go to websites that don’t share their political points of view. That’s encouraging.

So, what does your index tell you about yourself? How many sites in the Media Map have you checked out? What’s one that you find yourself dismissing, and what would you discover if you spent some time to explore it?

And, in thinking about the people you hang around with and the websites you browse, how often do you find yourself exposed to a point of view that challenges your own?

Here at Public Allies, we need to ask ourselves the same questions. Makes me wonder: If we as an institution took the Isolation Index test, what would the analysis say about us? (Full disclosure: I took Isolation test and got a message that they didn’t have enough data on me! I’m going to try again from my home computer.)

We think they’re all worthwhile questions. And you?



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