Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

ECHO CHAMBERS AND EPISTEMIC BUBBLES

  • C. Thi Nguyen
Abstract

Discussion of the phenomena of post-truth and fake news often implicates the closed epistemic networks of social media. The recent conversation has, however, blurred two distinct social epistemic phenomena. An epistemic bubble is a social epistemic structure in which other relevant voices have been left out, perhaps accidentally. An echo chamber is a social epistemic structure from which other relevant voices have been actively excluded and discredited. Members of epistemic bubbles lack exposure to relevant information and arguments. Members of echo chambers, on the other hand, have been brought to systematically distrust all outside sources. In epistemic bubbles, other voices are not heard; in echo chambers, other voices are actively undermined. It is crucial to keep these phenomena distinct. First, echo chambers can explain the post-truth phenomena in a way that epistemic bubbles cannot. Second, each type of structure requires a distinct intervention. Mere exposure to evidence can shatter an epistemic bubble, but may actually reinforce an echo chamber. Finally, echo chambers are much harder to escape. Once in their grip, an agent may act with epistemic virtue, but social context will pervert those actions. Escape from an echo chamber may require a radical rebooting of one's belief system.

Copyright
Corresponding author
References
Hide All
Alcoff, L. M. 2007. ‘Epistemologies of Ignorance: Three Types.’ In Sullivan, S. and Tuana, N. (eds), Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
An, J., Quercia, D. and Crowcroft, J. 2014. ‘Partisan Sharing: Facebook Evidence and Societal Consequences.’ In Proceedings of the Second ACM Conference on Online Social Networks. http://cosn.acm.org/2014/files/cosn033f-anAembTS.pdf.
Baumgaertner, B. 2014. ‘Yes, No, Maybe So: A Veritistic Approach to Echo Chambers Using a Trichotomous Belief Model.’ Synthese, 191(11): 2549–69.
Begby, E. 2013. ‘The Epistemology of Prejudice.’ Thought: A Journal of Philosophy, 2(2): 90–9.
Begby, E. 2017. ‘Evidential Pre-emption.’ Presented at the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division 2017 Meeting.
Bishop, B. 2009. The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-minded America is Tearing Us Apart. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Burge, T. 1993. ‘Content Preservation.’ Philosophical Review, 102(4): 457–88.
Cassam, Q. 2016. ‘Vice Epistemology.’ The Monist, 99(2): 159.
Coady, D. 2006. ‘When Experts Disagree.’ Episteme, 3(1–2): 6879.
Coady, D. 2012. What to Believe Now. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Coates, D. D. 2010. ‘Post-involvement Difficulties Experienced by Former Members of Charismatic Groups.’ Journal of Religious Health, 49: 296310.
Corner, A., Whitmarsh, L. and Xenias, D. 2012. ‘Uncertainty, Scepticism and Attitudes Towards Climate Change: Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarisation.’ Climatic Change, 114(3–4): 463–78.
Dentith, M. R. X. 2015. ‘When Inferring to a Conspiracy Theory Might be the Best Explanation.’ Social Epistemology, 16: 572–91.
Dentith, M. R. X. 2017. ‘The Problem of Conspiricism.’ Argumenta, 5: 116.
Descartes, R. 1984. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vol. 2. Translated by Cottingham, J., Stoothoff, R. and Murdoch, D.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
El-Bermawy, M. 2016. ‘Your Filter Bubble is Destroying Democracy.’ https://www.wired.com/2016/11/filter-bubble-destroying-democracy/.
Faulkner, P. 2000. ‘The Social Character of Testimonial Knowledge.’ Journal of Philosophy, 97(11): 581601.
Flaxman, S., Goel, S. and Rao, J. M. 2016. ‘Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers, and Online News Consumption.’ Public Opinion Quarterly, 80: 298320.
Fricker, M. 2011. ‘Rational Authority and Social Power: Towards a Truly Social Epistemology.’ In Goldman, A. (ed.), Social Epistemology – Essential Readings, pp. 5470. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Gilbert, E., Bergstrom, T. and Karahalios, K. 2009. ‘Blogs are Echo Chambers: Blogs are Echo Chambers.’ In 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. doi: 10.1109/HICSS.2009.91
Goldberg, S. 2010. Relying on Others: An Essay in Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goldberg, S. 2011. ‘If That Were True I Would Have Heard About It By Now.’ In The Oxford Handbook of Social Epistemology, pp. 92108. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goldberg, S. 2013. ‘Epistemic Dependence in Testimonial Belief, in the Classroom and Beyond.’ Journal of Philosophy of Education, 47(2): 168–86.
Goldman, A. I. 2001. ‘Experts: Which Ones Should You Trust?Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 63: 85110.
Hardwig, J. 1985. ‘Epistemic Dependence.’ Journal of Philosophy, 82(7): 335–49.
Hardwig, J. 1991. ‘The Role of Trust in Knowledge.’ Journal of Philosophy, 88(12): 693708.
Jamieson, K. H. and Cappella, J. N. 2008. Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kahan, D. M. and Braman, D. 2006. ‘Cultural Cognition and Public Policy.’ Yale Law & Policy Review, 24: 149–72.
Kelly, T. 2008. ‘Disagreement, Dogmatism, and Belief Polarization.’ Journal of Philosophy, 105(10): 611–33.
Kitcher, P. 1993. The Advancement of Science. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Lackey, J. 2013. ‘Disagreement and Belief Dependence: Why Numbers Matter.’ In Lackey, J. and Christensen, D. (eds), The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays, pp. 243–68. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Langone, M. D. 1994. ‘Reflections on Post-Cult Recovery.’ http://www.icsahome.com/articles/reflections-on-post-cult-recovery-langone.
Lifton, R. 1991. ‘Cult Formation.’ Cultic Studies Journal, 8: 16.
Mengus, B. 2016. ‘Pizzagaters Aren't Giving This Shit Up.’ Gizmodo. http://gizmodo.com/pizzagaters-arent-giving-this-shit-up-1789692422.
Miller, B. and Record, I. 2013. ‘Justified Belief in a Digital Age: On the Epistemic Implications of Secret Internet Technologies.’ Episteme, 10(2): 117–34.
Millgram, E. 2015. The Great Endarkenment: Philosophy for An Age of Hyperspecialization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mills, C. 2007. ‘White Ignorance.’ In Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance, pp. 1138. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Nelson, J. L. and Webster, J. G. 2017. ‘The Myth of Partisan Selective Exposure: A Portrait of the Online Political News Audience.’ Social Media + Society, July–September: 1–13.
Nguyen, C. T. 2010. ‘Autonomy, Understanding, and Moral Disagreement.’ Philosophical Topics, 38(2): 111129.
Nguyen, C. Thi. 2011. ‘An Ethics of Uncertainty: Moral Disagreement and Moral Humility.’ PhD dissertation. University of California at Los Angeles. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (UMI No. 3532448).
Nguyen, C. Thi. 2018a. ‘Cognitive Islands and Runaway Echo Chambers: Problems for Expert Dependence.’ Synthese. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-018-1692-0.
Nguyen, C. Thi. 2018b. ‘Escape the Echo Chamber.’ Aeon Magazine. https://aeon.co/essays/why-its-as-hard-to-escape-an-echo-chamber-as-it-is-to-flee-a-cult.
Nguyen, C. Thi. 2018c. ‘Expertise and the Fragmentation of Intellectual Autonomy.’ Philosophical Inquiries, 6(2): 107–24.
Orwell, G. 1968. ‘Politics and the English Language.’ In Orwell, S. and Angos, I. (eds), The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 4, 1st edition, pp. 121–46. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.
Pariser, E. 2011. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You. London: Penguin UK.
Pollak, J. 2017. ‘#FakeNews: Mainstream Media Continue to Slander Breitbart.’ Breitbart, 30 January. http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2017/01/30/fakenews-mainstream-media-continue-slander-breitbart/.
Robbins, T. and Anthony, D. 1982. ‘Deprogramming, Brainwashing and the Medicalization of Deviant Religious Groups.’ Social Problems, 29(3): 283–97.
Robson, J. 2014. ‘A Social Epistemology of Aesthetics: Belief Polarization, Echo Chambers and Aesthetic Judgement.’ Synthese, 191(11): 2513–28.
Saez-Trumper, D., Castillo, C. and Lalmas, M. 2013. ‘Social Media News Communities: Gatekeeping, Coverage, and Statement Bias.’ In Proceedings of the 22nd ACM International Conference on Information & Knowledge Management. https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2505623.
Singer, M. T. 1979. ‘Coming Out of the Cults.’ Psychology Today, 12(8): 7282.
Smart, P. R. 2017. ‘Mandevillian Intelligence.’ Synthese. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-017-1414-z.
Sunstein, C. R. 2001. Republic.com. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Sunstein, C. R. 2009a. Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sunstein, C. R. 2009b. Republic.com 2.0. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Trouche, E., Johansson, P., Hall, L. and Mercier, H. 2016. ‘The Selective Laziness of Reasoning.’ Cognitive Science, 40(8): 2122–36.
Vogt, P. J. and Goldman, A. 2016. ‘Voyage Into Pizzagate.’ https://gimletmedia.com/episode/83-voyage-into-pizzagate/.
Watson, J. C. 2015. ‘Filter Bubbles and the Public Use of Reason: Applying Epistemology to the Newsfeed.’ In Scalambrino, F. (ed.), Social Epistemology and Technology: Toward Public Self-Awareness Regarding Technological Mediation, pp. 4758. London: Rowman & Littlefield.
Weathers, C. 2014. ‘CrossFit Is a Cult: Why So Many of Its Defenders Are So Defensive.’ Salon. https://www.salon.com/2014/10/22/crossfit_is_a_cult_why_so_many_of_its_defenders_are_so_defensive_partner/.
Wittgenstein, L. 2010. Philosophical Investigations. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Zagzebski, L. 2012. Epistemic Authority. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Episteme
  • ISSN: 1742-3600
  • EISSN: 1750-0117
  • URL: /core/journals/episteme
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed