“Daily Me” and Democracy


According to Cass Sunstein, my media consumption habits, such as my personalization of a google page into a collection of news and information sources (including, *gasp* blogs) would slot me into what he terms a “daily me.” Thanks to “filtering” options, which allow me to read, see, and hear what I want and not what I *should* in order to be a well-informed citizen, I am now one among millions who do not care about many issues and ideas that matter. Sunstein writes in the first chapter of his new book, Republic.com 2.0:

People who consider themselves left-of-center make very different selections from those made by people who consider themselves right-of-center. Most whites avoid news and entertainment options designed for African Americans. Many African Americans focus largely on options specifically designed for them. So too with Hispanics. With the reduced importance of the general-interest magazine and newspaper and the flowering of individual programming design, different groups make fundamentally different choices.

The market for news, entertainment, and information has finally been perfected. Consumers are able to see exactly what they want. When the power to filter is unlimited, people can decide, in advance and with perfect accuracy, what they will and will not encounter. They can design something very much like a communications universe of their own choosing. And if they have trouble designing it, it can be designed for them, again with perfect accuracy.

Not only does Sunstein assume that I live in an “echo chamber” and engage only with ideas and people I pick and choose, he argues that I could not have been a “daily me” in the “old media” world, that I would have been “exposed to materials that [I] would not have chosen in advance.” And now that I’ve begun blogging, there is no hope. Like other bloggers, I only read/see/hear that which I can blog about. I am utterly uninformed and need to be sent away to an information camp where well-intentioned men will teach me how to participate effectively in a democracy.

Review in The Guardian here. Henry Jenkins’ take on Republic.com here.


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