Online Echo Chambers, Online Epistemic Bubbles, and Open-Mindedness

Episteme 21:1-26 (2023)
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This article is an exercise in the virtue epistemology of the internet, an area of applied virtue epistemology that investigates how online environments impact the development of intellectual virtues, and how intellectual virtues manifest within online environments. I examine online echo chambers and epistemic bubbles (Nguyen 2020, Episteme 17(2), 141–61), exploring the conceptual relationship between these online environments and the virtue of open-mindedness (Battaly 2018b, Episteme 15(3), 261–82). The article answers two key individual-level, virtue epistemic questions: (Q1) How does immersion in online echo chambers and epistemic bubbles affect the cultivation and preservation of open-mindedness, and (Q2) Is it always intellectually virtuous to exhibit open-mindedness in the context of online echo chambers and epistemic bubbles? In response to Q1, I contend that both online echo chambers and online epistemic bubbles threaten to undermine the cultivation and preservation of open-mindedness, albeit via different mechanisms and to different degrees. In response to Q2, I affirm that both a deficiency and an excess of open-mindedness can be virtuous in these online environments, depending on the epistemic orientation of the digital user.

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Cody Turner
University of Notre Dame

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