26 September 2008

Why the net won’t turn us all into social isolationists

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Net, Blogs and Rock'n'Roll
David Jennings, author of the book Net, Blogs and Rock’n’Roll, argues why he disagrees with Cass Sunstein on the future described in his book Republic.com 2.0, one where we all subscribe to the Daily Me, a filter that presents us only with the worldview of people we agree with.

Last year Cass Sunstein produced a revised version of his book Republic.com, titled — with crushing inevitability — Republic.com 2.0. In it, he critiqued the impact of the net on democratic discourse and public spaces. His dystopia is one where we all subscribe to the Daily Me, a filter that presents us only with the worldview of people we agree with. What we gain in (temporary) contentedness we lose in critical appraisal and debate — with potentially dire political and social consequences.

I think there are three sets of reasons why Sunstein’s dystopia will not come about:

  1. Filtering and recommender systems will always be imperfect; they’ll never be as good as their evangelists would have you believe.
  2. Even if perfect filtering did work, people wouldn’t like it; they’d quickly get ‘perfect’ fatigue.
  3. If people did liked perfect filtering, we wouldn’t need the blogs that Sunstein argues are the medium of ‘echo chamber’ opinion: if all you ever have to say is ‘me too’ in chorus with your like-minded peers, the whole point of blogging (self-casting) disappears.

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(via FutureLab)

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