the term homophily was coined in the 1950s by sociologists to describe the tendency of people to form connections with others that are similar to themselves.
while much is often made of the 'filter bubble' of search and social media, tech companies can really only be said to be amplifying a phenomena that has already been flagged as a mainstay of civilization as we know it, giving the people what it is their proclivity to want despite their protests to the contrary.
it may be that peer networks will always be echo chambers. what we are missing is something that can transcend them. this problem is well known to the academics as the post-modern condition.
the right has welcomed post-modernity with open arms from almost the very beginning. if the great institutions that tie us together appear to be gasping for air, there is a lot of power to be wielded in empty promises to resuscitate them. if they are exposed as hypocrites, they can be forgiven by citing the impossibility of the times that propelled them to power on in the first place.
...or they could just say that the media lies, present their 'alternative facts' as the reality that the press refuses to acknowledge. when reagan's fcc repealed the fairness doctrine, they set the stage for this line of attack. homophily boosts the ratings and with it the advertising revenue.
for tech companies, it's the same. more clicks. more likes. more data points. more ad money.
unlike print or television, on-line advertisers have no idea where their ads will appear. they only know the demographic that they are reaching. hyper-partisan news outlets emerged on-line, guaranteeing a homophily of readers to advertise to, and many of them quickly discovered that the news didn't have to be true in order to make them money. the companies funding these operations undoubtedly also helped to legitimize the content that they appeared beside through the name-recognition of their brands.
the press quickly nailed shut the coffin of the idea of an objective journalism by adding their voice to the chorus lambasting the dangers of 'fake news', publishing lists of websites that cannot be trusted and so acknowledging that, in fact, journalism itself cannot be trusted. an idea that actually began in the underground newspapers of 1960's counterculture which saw the press as just another manifestation of 'the man'. oh, how the tables turn with time.
the emerging 'public sphere' appears to be more of a multiplicity of public spheres that we move across like nomads move between oases in the desert, following the reality that conforms best to a world in which we feel like we belong, following the trail of homophily.
the works in #homophily hover around these ideas, trace how they look and feel, what messages hide between and inside them, and begin to chart a path towards resisting the impulse towards sameness, towards spamming the system meant to reduce us to data points, common characteristics that make us easy targets for advertisers and enrich the digitari in the process.
we will not claim that this exhibition will solve these problems, but we hope that it will make us think about them in a way that make solutions more salient.