How do we, particularly us knowledge workers, expose ourselves to different views and perspectives? I’m asking this as a very practical question. I’m currently reading Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice and one of the most important concepts concerning justice is that it should represent fairness, and that in fact justice and fairness are separate concepts. (Except that many languages, including French, do not have separate words for justice and fairness.) But it occurred to me as I was reading that it is impossible to be fair if you are not aware of all possible views on a subject. (Now, of course, knowing all views probably is itself impossible for most complicated subjects…there would be a long tail of views that defied comprehension, so then you immediately get involved in deciding which views are relevant, etc., which puts you in another miasma of subjectivity. And this is one of the main reasons why I’ve always been rather dubious about the wisdom of authority and institutions, but I digress…)
To return to the main topic, diversity of thought is key to attaining justice and fairness in societies. And how can we hope to achieve such diversity of thought? Well, of course, one way is through the use of TWITTER. Roger Schank, a leading thinker in education and artificial intelligence, just wrote a piece in eLearn magazine on how Twitter is capable of changing the very nature of what it means to learn from your peers. Absolutely! The magic of Twitter is in how it has become a perpetual learning machine. But the question remains, is my Twitter stream diverse?
So I decided to do a manual check this morning of the people I follow. I only follow about 200 people so it wasn’t too hard to do it by hand, although admittedly my analysis is extremely primitive. (Is there a program that lets you analyze the diversity of your network? I just tried Google’s FollowFinder, which helps me find more people who are like the ones I already follow. I want the opposite. I want someone to analyze my network and provide me with links to people who are in the same intellectual domains but have different perspectives. Then I would like a tool that shows me other intellectual disciplines I should follow.) In any case here are the results of my Twitter Diversity Inventory. N=200 (Yes, I know the numbers don’t actually add up…I took several shortcuts which I can explain if you’d like…but the numbers are generally truthy.)
|Not northern European||19|
|Internet/Social Media/IT Experts||64|
Bottom line: I’m not very satisfied. Normalizing to a 100-point scale, more or less, my diversity score for American/non American and northern European/non-northern European is below 20. That can’t be good. It must lead to personal blind spots in how I think about many subjects. The next step is to figure out how to fix this. More to come….