Republic.com 2.0

Cass R. Sunstein, Author
Cass R. Sunstein, Author Princeton University Press $24.95 (251p) ISBN 978-0-691-13356-0
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In this follow up to Republic.com, his first appraisal of technology's effect on public discourse, University of Chicago Law School professor Sunstein waxes pessimistic about today's ""nightmare"" of limitless news and information options-and, more significantly, the limitless options for avoiding it. Gravitating toward those newspapers, blogs, podcasts and other media that reinforce their own views, citizens carefully filter out opposing or alternative viewpoints to create an ideologically exclusive ""Daily Me."" The sense of personal empowerment consumers gain-and subsequently equate with ""freedom""-only fuels the ""echo chamber"" effect, which replaces a sense of democratic unity with accelerating polarization. Sunstein argues that the most obvious dangers of this effect-single-minded terrorists and hate groups who use cyberspace to communicate directly with receptive audiences-hide the more subtle and far-reaching consequences of the ""growing power of consumers to 'filter' what they see"": not only do diverse publics need to hear multiple voices, they also must cultivate a culture ""where people actually want to hear what others have to say."" This perceptive volume effectively illuminates the contradictory impulses at the heart of the citizen-consumer, demonstrating how ""there can be no assurance of freedom in a system committed to the Daily Me""; though challenging and thought-provoking throughout, Sunstein's chapter of partial solutions proves underwhelming.
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