Echo Chamber

filter bubble

The echo chamber effect refers to any situation in which information, ideas or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission inside an ‘enclosed’ space. Observers of journalism describe an echo chamber effect in media discourse. One purveyor of information will make a claim, which many like-minded people then repeat, overhear, and repeat again (often in an exaggerated or otherwise distorted form) until most people assume that some extreme variation of the story is true.

A media conglomerate that owns multiple media outlets can produce the same story among ‘different’ outlets, creating an illusion that a media consumer is getting information from different sources.

Similarly, the term also refers to the media effect whereby an incorrect story (often a ‘smear’ that first appears in a new-media domain) is reported through a biased channel, creating a media controversy that is subsequently reported in more reputable mainstream media outlets. These mainstream reports often use intermediary sources or commentary for reference and emphasize the controversy surrounding the original story rather than its factual merits. The overall effect often is to legitimize false claims in the public eye through sheer volume of reporting and media references, even if the majority of these reports acknowledges the factual inaccuracy of the original story.

Participants in online communities may find their own opinions constantly echoed back to them, which reinforces their individual belief systems. This can create significant barriers to critical discourse within an online medium. Another emerging term used to describe this echoing and homogenizing effect on the Internet within social communities is ‘cultural tribalism.’ The Internet may also be seen as a complex system (e.g., emergent, dynamic, evolutionary), and as such, will at times eliminate the effects of positive feedback loops (i.e., the echo chamber effect) to that system.

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