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New book talks about democracy and the web.
April 6, 2001 11:15 AM   Subscribe

New book talks about democracy and the web. The student newspaper that I work for reviewed the new book Republic.com, which talks about the potential problems that the Internet poses to democracy. Contrary the ideal of free information and exposure to new ideas on the Internet, the author concludes that in online communities, people choose to associate with people who share similiar opinions, which subsequently radicalizes their opinions and shuts them out to opposing voices. Food for thought.
posted by ktheory (10 comments total)

 
While I have not read the book, I would respond to the brief summary you've provided. Basically, I don't think it works entirely this way, all the time.

Strangely this goes in with the recent post that mathowie did, on how he's tired of mefi, ofcourse he'll be tired. I think a lot has been accomplished; as a community it has many different voices, from all sides. Sure it's more left politically, but, including me, the right is still present; internationally we probably have almost every country and I'm sure there are many languages that we all speak. There are Mac users and pc users, there are.. well.. you get the point. I, myself have not responded yet to the metatalk post, but this will serve both functions.

Anyway, back to politics, I'm not sure how it shuts them (the community members) out? If you've ever posted on freerepublic you are not allowed to join the democratic party? If you're posting on alt.creationism you're not allowed to read on evolution? Some people have their opinions, and would naturally want to build on them, that doesn't mean that they ignore everything else. Hopefully.

"Metafilter got worse, I remember a time when it was good and liberal"
"My main worry is that once this moster comes to life, he and others like him will all vote Republican."
posted by tiaka at 12:09 PM on April 6, 2001


People seek out people who think alike anyway: in terms of geography, places they socialize, even profession. I don't know if it's any moreso on the web. Some people may encounter things that back up their views, some may find opposing viewpoints. Some could never deal with opposing viewpoints to begin with. On alt.books.kurt-vonnegut, there have been a couple people who can't deal with the idea of Vonnegut fans who are not leftist in their politics. So if he was seeking out communities that reinforced him, he failed in that regard.
posted by dagnyscott at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2001


I don't see how it's so different from, say, reading all ideology all the time in print -- or getting all your info from certainly ideological publications, plus ideological radio and TV shows/network(s). In other words, all National Review/Standard/freerepublic/Fox/Rush and New Republic, Salon, Nation, whatever, et. al. It's easier to do that now, but it's always been possible and has long been done and always been irritating.

The greater meaning for me is: Getting your news filtered through a narrow ideological prism is pretty irresponsible, if not outright stupid, no matter what the medium through which you receive your information. Living in a democracy may not demand that much of you, other than voting, but even voting requires knowing a bit more than what comes through such media, and talking with your own kind, all Dinkins-like "gorgeous mosaic" talk or whatnot aside. You talk in spin and ideological truisms/cliches. You don't know how to talk to people outside your group and are maybe even hostile to others, when in fact they could maybe be beneficial to you in certain circumstances, if not just good to know regardless.

But you all know this from, say, 9th grade literature class, right?
posted by raysmj at 12:18 AM on April 7, 2001


Hmm. Maybe it's a manifestation of my inner Tyler Durden, but I make it a point to seek out media outlets that are diametrically opposed to my world view. Whether that is listening to Limbaugh and yelling at the radio, or going to a religion chat room and saying "the bible is a great work of fiction".

But perhaps I'm confrontational by nature.
posted by owillis at 12:25 AM on April 7, 2001


I wouldn't want to have an inner Fox-sponsored anti-corporate character in me, given that the irony's so thick I'd choke on my own inner s***, but that's entirely another story.
posted by raysmj at 1:00 AM on April 7, 2001


Getting your news filtered through a narrow ideological prism is pretty irresponsible, if not outright stupid...I would say getting your news only through such a prism is bad. But to only patronize media outlets with so-called balanced coverage is to just get your news filtered more surrepetitiously, since true objectivity does not exist.
posted by aaron at 9:55 AM on April 7, 2001


Cass Sunstein deeply suspects web communities (as far as politics is concern) because what Cass believes in, more than anything else, is in the power of reasoning to reach conclusions, and the benefit of institutions which foster reasoning and valorize and promote those who reason best and scorn those who reason worst, or least.

Web communities generally lack the intermediary (such as tenuring committees, or editorial page editors) which supress the loud, insistent and facile in favor of the credentialed, careful and enlightened.

One very nice thing about MeFi, and /., and other entities which have a cultural or technological solution is that they have the capability to filter out the good reasoning from the bad ... without the elitism and credentialism which locks out 99.9% of the population from the discourse mediated by the New York Times and the faculties of the top 10 law schools.
posted by MattD at 12:47 PM on April 7, 2001


"Getting your news filtered through a narrow ideological prism is pretty irresponsible, if not outright stupid.."

uhh.. where is one supposed to get unfiltered news from then? our news is filtered.. the big corporations who own the news that we watch on tv, its filtered. you might not want to believe it, but it is. we hear what they want us too hear.

if news weren't unfiltered women would have more of a voice in this society. we live in a f***ing patriarchy and all news is based on that ideal. in this society we don't want to question that (at least not the majority of americans)..

radicalization is good i say. it means that people have brains beyond what society spoon feed them as norms.

yes, i say this even about those that i can't stand. even about those who stand on the opposite end of me-- i'm a radical lesbian feminist.

we live in a society that doesn't care. that doesn't question anything.

you think this is a democracy, well, i say, that's just s**t.. you think we live in a society where all are considered equal? ask someone of the lower class, ask a woman who has questioned her place in this world, ask a person of color, or a person who doesn't praactice the christian religion, ask a dyke, or a feminist, or a queer man, or someone with mental illness.. i could go on and on and on.

we *must* radicalize ourselves, and separate ourselves so that we can create power amongst our groups. look, the c*******n right has done it, and see how much f*****g power they have? the rest of us can do it too.

back to the original point. ALL news is filtered. wheather you believe it or not.
posted by rivervision at 12:54 PM on April 7, 2001


Aaron and Rivervision: Um, can you say, "Reading things into a post that aren't there?"
posted by raysmj at 1:37 PM on April 7, 2001


And no, rivervision, I don't think a nation which created, through its government, the freakin' Internet on which you get to post rants to a worldwide audience -- with few demands made upon your time or energy in return -- can honestly be called a democracy.
posted by raysmj at 1:49 PM on April 7, 2001


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