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03/07/2018

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Mohammad Alzamel

Listening to others can be very difficult - especially when their opinions are so different than ours. Still, how precious is it to us when we hear someone, someone with a different perspective even more so, validate our thoughts and feelings. As a Muslim, I oftentimes face this issue when having discussions with those of various religions. Feminists in particular find it difficult to listen to a Muslim man discuss feminine power in my Middle Eastern society which is oftentimes looked at as "oppressive towards women." I find it is nearly impossible to get them to listen to me. There is a context to our society that is not oftentimes heard by Western culture. While women play a *different* role than men in our society, there is a historical and cultural context that must also be considered. Thus, the only way that this can come to fruition is through listening. I found this TEDTalk, which follows the conversation of two very different individuals with different world views, to be a positive reminder that through dialogue, we are able to open our own minds and the minds of others without having to be harsh or rude. It is a truly valuable tool in our ability to communicate as human beings.

Jessica G

Even though pushing aside our own views is extremely difficult, it is vital that we should push them aside and truly connect with one another. Without the introductions of different ideas, nothing would ever change. I really liked Mohammad's point about communicating is valuable as human beings. Communication is what makes us who we are and shapes the way we think, feel, and act. If we just focus on our own views and push aside other people because we do not like what they believe in or think, then we will never learn new things and will become an aggressor more than a progressor. I have experienced being disliked for what I believe in, not only did it put me down about my beliefs, but it made me realize that the person who disagreed would never learn to communicate effectively if they would not put their beliefs aside and focus on other beliefs. Without understanding and communication, we are no longer a society, but a immense debate tournament.

Eylisse

The ideals of western civilization can be difficult to live up to if you are unwilling to compromise your opinions with that of those who oppose them. Both Joan and John touch on how we openly segregate ourselves by ideas, beliefs, and forms of entertainment. While the feeling of being apart of a group with shared ideas provides a sense of belonging, it, unfortunately, comes with the counterproductive consequence of living as Joan and John put in a "bubble". With complex problems that exist within our society, it is nearly impossible to uphold the American vision of freedom and equality while silencing the concerns of others. I believe listening to the views opposite of our own can provoke emotions that aren't always positive, however, the beauty of humanity is our ability to create through the integration of differing ideas. This is how we excel solving problems at advanced levels, as well as, how we create technology that supersedes its predecessors.

Alissa Federico

I personally agree with what is being said. In our generation we tend to filter out opinions we don't agree with, and only pay attention to ideas similar to ours. Even though it is sometimes difficult to listen to others opinions about topics we feel so sure about, it is important to connect with others and see from a different point of view. I think that technology has affected this a lot because it allows you to be able to connect with people who are like yourself which can be great but on the other hand it is necessary for humans to be able to communicate. It helps shape our minds. If both sides of a debate only focus on their view nothing will change because they are not trying to fix the problem, they just want to be right.

Cassie Lester

Joan Blades and John Gable discuss filter bubbles with technology and civil discourse in their TED Talk. John and Joan politically and geographically are very different people. Joan is a progressive originally from California, which is mainly a progressive state. John is a conservative originally from Tennessee near the border connecting to Kentucky, both areas in the conservative deep south. John moved to California for a job in Microsoft, and later in Netscape. John discusses that the internet had a simplistic vision from the start: to have people be able to make wiser decisions and appreciate different people. However, working in this field John realizes that the internet did quite the opposite; John gave a speech about how the internet might be training us to discriminate in new ways. Through filter bubbles technology blocks out people that disagree with you and ideas that you disagree with. With filter bubbles two things happen; one, beliefs can become extreme beliefs and two, people become less tolerant of others’ views. After meeting Joan, John learned that the problem is not just information filter bubbles, but it is also a societal and relationship bubble issue. They suggested a solve to these issues by including diversity of ideas and people from our own bubbles in our conversations.
Overall, I agree with Joan and Johns main argument that in todays generation we filter out people and ideas that we don’t agree with. I also agree that we, as a society, should work more on finding common ground in order better communicate and make progress. I think that, most of the time, people do not intentionally ignore differing views. When talking with people, we talk longer with people who we agree with and can have a civil conversation with. Although this is not always the case for every instance, it is true for most. I know for me I do want to talk to someone that is always contradicting me; it is not enjoyable to have someone constantly say you are wrong, and your views are flawed. However, people should include diversity and the others’ views while meeting people or engaging in conversation.

Sia

Currently, polarized discourse is a big problem in the United States that continues to get worse. Many unpleasant interactions between Americans with differing points of views are taking place. Families and long-time friendships are being torn apart because of disagreements on issues such as politics. If we don’t do something to address the problem, the United States will become more unpleasant and more families and friendships will be torn apart. If we want to address the problem, it is important that we understand its causes. This is complicated. Many writers have opinions on why Americans are polarized in certain ways. In They Say, I Say, Sean Blanda, editor in chief of websites that advise entrepreneurs on business innovations, and cofounder of Technically, writes about how technology and social media are major reasons for polarization. As Blanda puts it, “Online…we can be blindsided by the opinions of our friends or, more broadly, America. Over time this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the same ones and that there’s a crazy ‘Other Side’ that must be laughed at” (213). This shows that online, people often dismiss people who disagree with them as dumb and don’t make a fair effort to try to understand them. Online, there is so much information out there, that we are forced to choose the types of people we connect with, articles we read, videos we watch, etc. People, of course, choose to focus on sources that relate to their beliefs and this is becoming a problem. Other writers write about other causes of polarization, and they are likely right as well. There is no one answer to the question of what has caused America to become so polarized because the problem is very complicated. Addressing the problem is complicated as well. Many writers are optimistic and believe that there is a solution to the problem. On allsides.com, John and Joan are friends who are very different from each other: John is a conservative and Joan is a progressive. John believes that there is a solution to the problem of polarization that is getting worse as we continue to rely on technology. John says in a TED Talk, “We need to include a diversity of ideas and people within our bubbles. It’s that simple”. This suggests that learning about diverse points of views will be a simple way to solve the problem of polarization in the United States. In my view, it is not as simple as John says it is to solve this problem. This problem is complicated to solve, but things can still be done to make a difference. Learning about the problem and taking small steps to solve it are important and useful things to do. We can bridge the differences that divide us by researching the problem of polarization and by taking small steps to learn about and accept many points of views when interacting with others online and in person.
As argued in the introduction, technology is definitely a major cause of polarization in the United States. As Americans have continued to use technology more frequently, they are able to look almost exclusively at sources that confirm only certain beliefs and have become more polarized. However, we do not know the extent to which technology is causing polarization in the United States and the extent to which other things are causing polarization. More research needs to be done in order for us to find out more about known causes of polarization as well as other causes. danah boyd, a researcher at Microsoft Research who writes about and researches social and cultural issues, writes about polarization in her essay found in They Say, I Say, “Why America Is Self-Segregating”. She writes about the uncertainty about the causes of polarization in the United States in the quote, “The problem in not simply the ‘filter bubbles,’…what Facebook does do is mirror and magnify a trend that’s been unfolding in the United States for the last twenty years, a trend of self-segregation that is enabled by technology in all sorts of complicated ways” (219). In boyd’s view, polarization is not simply caused by “filter bubbles”, but has been caused by technology in many complex ways for the last twenty years. In my view, the problem is caused by many things other than technology, meaning it is even more complicated than boyd implies it is. Another source, “Debating the Causes of Party Polarization in America” by Paul Frymer is about party polarization in the United States and mentions major causes for polarization that are not related to technology. According to the source, “Party polarization is not a new reality in American history, suggesting that its causes are a varied combination of old and new forces…closed primaries give parties more control and enable radical voters within the party coalition to have an unequal say…majoritarian electoral rules that mandate only one winner from many electoral districts will continually push parties to produce moderate candidates capable of winning the median voter’s support” (10). This suggests that the election system in the United States has been a major cause of polarization in the United States for a long time. This is an example of a factor that has been causing polarization in the United States for a longer time than technology. The election system in the United States might even encourage polarization more than technology does; it is very unclear. It is unclear what the major causes of polarization are, the extent to which certain things are causing polarization, and which causes of polarization we should focus on trying to do something about. What is clear is that the problem of polarization continues to get worse. Polarization in the United States is a pressing issue that needs to be researched sooner rather than later.

If we don’t do research, we might do things to make the problem of polarization worse instead of better. Many schools are taking actions to increase diversity, but an essay by Gabriella Moro suggests that schools haven’t done enough research and could be making the problem worse. Moro writes, “Many schools have implemented safe and comfortable environments where minority students can thrive academically and socially with peers from similar backgrounds…these minority groups [may] amplify students’ tendency to interact only with those who are similar to themselves…further research should be conducted, specifically on the types of cultural events that are most effective in promoting cultural awareness and meaningful diverse interactions among the student body.” (269-278). This quote describes an action many schools are taking to address the problem of polarization in American schools, creating minority student clubs, that might be harmful. Schools, as well as individuals, need to do research on what is effective in addressing the problem of polarization in the United States rather than taking immediate action, such as creating many minority student clubs, that may make the problem worse.

Going back to John and Joan’s TED talk that was mentioned in the introduction, it is now evident that while they make many useful claims about taking action to help connect Americans, they oversimplify the problem of polarization in the United States. The quote John said in the TED talk that was stated in the introduction is “We need to include a diversity of ideas and people within our bubbles. It’s that simple”. There is a lot of evidence to refute their claim that polarization in the United States has simple causes and a simple solution. They mention only one way that technology is causing polarization in the United States when evidence suggests that there are many complex ways that technology is causing polarization. John and Joan also only mention technology as a cause of polarization in the United States and fail to mention causes such as the election system in America that might be even more important for Americans to focus on than technology. This is not to say that John and Joan haven’t done significant research. They have lead and created many programs to address the problem of polarization in the United States and cite statistics when making claims about things Americans should do about the problem. Their research is a good example of the type of research I would claim that Americans should do. Their research makes their claims about actions Americans should take to address the problem of polarization valid and the only claim they make that I would respectfully argue is backed by evidence is their claim that there is a simple solution to the problem of polarization in the United States.

Individuals need to take small steps to accept diverse points of views. People such as John and Joan have performed research to show that this works. Even without the research, I would argue that there is no doubt that trying to accept diverse points of views will make the problem significantly better rather than worse. John says, “We just launched Mismatch.org so students can be matched with other students in different parts of the country or around the world with very different beliefs. The results have been fantastic. 92% of student reports said they better understood the other side or the other student. Over 99% of the students thought the experience was valuable”. This points out that many students had a good experience using a program called Mismatch.org that allowed them to connect to others with different points of views. Many other individuals can do simple things such as using websites like this to learn about different points of views. John and Joan also discuss more of these simple things that individuals do. John says, “Living Room Conversations were designed to begin to heal political and personal disconnects…the process is straight forward-2 friends with different viewpoints each invite 2 friends for a simple structured conversation…anyone can do this”. This suggestion to have Living Room Conversations is another of many proposals John and Joan have made to help address the problem of polarization in the United States. Their proposals are too simple to do any harm, yet will make a big difference in helping them connect with others.

There are many simple things individuals in the United States should do to help bridge the differences that are quickly and continuously dividing Americans. Americans should also research the causes of polarization and not make any big changes without doing further research. Overall, we can bridge the differences that divide us by researching causes of polarization and doing small things to accept diverse points of views.

Works Cited

Blades, Joan, and Gables, John. “Breaking Through Filter Bubbles with Technology and Civil
Discourse: TED Talk” AllSides, 31 Dec. 2017, www.allsides.com/blog/breaking
through-filter-bubbles-bridge-divides-tedwomen-2017-full-script.
Blanda, Sean. “The ‘Other Side’ Is Not Dumb”. They Say, I Say with Readings, Gerald Graff,
Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, Fourth Edition, Vol. 1, W.W Norton and Company,
2018, pp. 212-218.
Boyd, Danah. “Why America is Self-Segregating”. They Say, I Say with Readings, Gerald Graff,
Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, Fourth Edition, Vol. 1, W.W Norton and Company,
2018, pp. 219-229.
Frymer, Paul. “Debating the Causes of Party Polarization in America.” California Law Review,
vol.99, no. 2, 2011, pp. 335–349. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23018604.
Moro, Gabriella. “Minority Student Clubs: Segregation or Integration?”. They Say, I Say with
Readings, Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, Fourth Edition, Vol. 1,
W.W Norton and Company, 2018, pp. 212-218.

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