What Makes an Echo Chamber

Lately, I have heard frequent reference to the dreaded echo chamber. The term seems to be universally pejorative, and the close-minded saps who would inhabit such a place are judged harshly.

I’m wary of an insult that is broadly used, and in what appears to be a one-sided manner. I’d like to feel the boundaries of this one a bit.

I have, on many occasions, participated in what I’ll call a fan club. Here are some of them:

Amiga User’s Group: A meeting of people who own Commadore’s Amiga Personal Computer, and want to share their insights in computing, their reasons for preferring Amiga, share software, play games together, and generally socialize with other Amiga Users. Often, it was a circle jerk about how the Amiga was the best computer and everyone else was ignorant.

Lightwave User’s Group: A meeting of 3D animators who use the NewTek Lightwave software, and want to share insights in 3D modelling, rigging, preferences for modelling tools and methods, and other 3D animation topics. Often, it’s a circle jerk about how Lightwave has hands-down the best modelling tools, and a pretty darn good renderer.

Software Development Group: A meeting of software developers who use the same tools (generally the same language, and Integrated Development Environment) to develop software and like to circle-jerk about their software development tools, share ideas on how software should be made, propose standards and conventions, and show off each other’s work.

Anime Fan Groups: People who love Japanese animation.

Role Playing Groups: People who love Dungeons & Dragons and other role playing games (I was also into GURPS, Car Wars, Cyberpunk, and Paranoia) and often board games.

The “Echo Chamber” insults seem to revolve around Social and Political topics.

My questions to the crowd are these (although you should feel free to share any insights you like):

1. What boundaries separate a permissible echo chamber from an impermissible one?

2. What obligation do people have to avoid being part of an echo chamber?

3. What justification do people have for intervening or breaking up an echo chamber? Is there a moral imperative? Is it spite?

4. Based on 1-3, why are echo chambers seen in a strictly negative light?