Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Internet and Democracy/The Internet and Social Communities

The article “The Daily We,” by Cass R. Sunstein mentions ways in which the Internet can foster democracy. He provides examples of tools that can be used to make it more efficient to engage in entertainment and news. The user can customize music, movies, news, sports, and fashion programs. Programs can also be manipulated so that they can be recorded and viewed at the users will (e.g. TiVo). Because such a wealth of information is close at hand, Sunstein explains that this availability allows users to learn about so much more now than they have ever been able to before the Internet. This knowledge gives users not only a choice, but it also allows them to establish a voice. In this a la carte Internet world, Sunstein suggests that there may be a drawback in this design. Tailoring what we view and listen to actually limits democracy because it limits what we are aware of in the world and even in our own community. Disallowing these limits puts the user in a position to become conscious of issues and facts that they would have otherwise never known about. But allowing the user to filter unwanted material creates a less informative environment.
In chapter eight of the article, “Here Comes Everybody,” Clay Shirky mentions a lot of the things we discussed in class such as Wikipedia, the Wayback Machine, which is used for archiving sites. He also focuses on the need or importance of social communities. He suggests that participating in such communities benefits people by not only providing them with company, but it does more than that. It creates trust. Shirky seems to imply that this relativity may even prevent crime. This concept is logical. When someone knows you and they know that you know them, they are less likely to steal from you. My mom always said, “Get to know your neighbors.” Being a part of this type of community ensures that someone will be there for you more likely than if they do not know who you are. Moreover, you will more than likely be there for them. Shirky believes that the Internet can provide this and more.

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