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Bill Bishop

By May 2008Comments

Bill Bishop
Photograph by Lauren Jaben

In The Big Sort, the Austin political blogger and Pulitzer finalist for editorial writing addresses America’s tendency to segment itself into tiny, like-minded groups (a phenomenon he calls “clustering”).

How did the “big sort” notion come to be, and what does it signify?

[Sociologist] Robert Cushing and I began exploring why some places produced technology and patents while others seemed to stagnate. We found that the country was sorting: The places where educated people moved got richer; the places where young people moved produced more patents; basic beliefs varied place to place. The sort was cultural, economic, and political. What surprised us was that we live in a time of incredible choice in where and how to live, and yet we were constructing increasingly isolated lives. I think it signifies a retreat from our country’s early democratic promise, that diversity is an asset if we can find a way to talk to each other and listen.

What cluster does Bill Bishop belong to?

When I went to the polls in 2006, I took pictures for a Web site that was collecting photos of American precincts. I snapped some shots of a brown Lab with voters in the background, then asked the owner the dog’s name. “Che,” she said. When a dog chosen at random at a polling place is named for a Marxist revolutionary, odds are that the precinct skews blue. Houghton Mifflin, $25 (Read the full interview.)

Read an excerpt.

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