Republic.com 2.0

Republic.com 2.0

Cass R. Sunstein
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7tbsw
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  • Book Info
    Republic.com 2.0
    Book Description:

    What happens to democracy and free speech if people use the Internet to listen and speak only to the like-minded? What is the benefit of the Internet's unlimited choices if citizens narrowly filter the information they receive? Cass Sunstein first asked these questions in 2001'sRepublic.com. Now, inRepublic.com 2.0, Sunstein thoroughly rethinks the critical relationship between democracy and the Internet in a world where partisan Weblogs have emerged as a significant political force.

    Republic.com 2.0highlights new research on how people are using the Internet, especially the blogosphere. Sunstein warns against "information cocoons" and "echo chambers," wherein people avoid the news and opinions that they don't want to hear. He also demonstrates the need to regulate the innumerable choices made possible by technology. His proposed remedies and reforms emphasize what consumers and producers can do to help avoid the perils, and realize the promise, of the Internet.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2783-1
    Subjects: Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xv)
  4. 1 The Daily Me
    (pp. 1-18)

    It is some time in the future. Technology has greatly increased people's ability to “filter” what they want to read, see, and hear. With the aid of the Internet, you are able to design your own newspapers and magazines. You can choose your own programming, with movies, game shows, sports, shopping, and news of your choice. You mix and match.

    You need not come across topics and views that you have not sought out. Without any difficulty, you are able to see exactly what you want to see, no more and no less. You can easily find out what “people...

  5. 2 An Analogy and an Ideal
    (pp. 19-45)

    The changes now being produced by new communications technologies are understated, not overstated, by the thought experiment with which I began. What is happening goes far beyond the increasingly customized computer screen.

    Many of us telecommute rather than going to work; this is a growing trend. Rather than visiting the local bookstore, where we are likely to see a number of diverse people, many of us shop for books on Amazon.com. Others avoid the local stores, because one or another company is entirely delighted to deliverCitizen Kaneand a pizza. Thus media analyst Ken Auletta enthuses, “I can sample...

  6. 3 Polarization and Cybercascades
    (pp. 46-96)

    There is a discussion group on the Internet. The group was started two years ago by about a dozen political activists who were concerned about the increasing public pressure for gun control and the perceived “emasculation” of the Second Amendment (which, in the group’s view, clearly bans government restrictions on the sale of guns). But the group was also troubled by the growing authority of government, especially the national government, over the lives of ordinary people, and worried as well about the threat to our “European heritage” and to “traditional moral values” that is posed by uncontrolled immigration, by terrorism,...

  7. 4 Social Glue and Spreading Information
    (pp. 97-118)

    Some people believe that freedom of speech is a luxury. In their view, poor nations, or nations struggling with social and economic problems, should be trying not to promote democracy, but to ensure material well-being—economic growth, and a chance for everyone to have food, clothing, and shelter. This view is badly misconceived. If we understand what is wrong with it, we will have a much better sense of the social role of communications.

    For many countries, the most devastating problem of all consists of famines, defined as widespread denial of access to food and, as a result, mass starvation....

  8. 5 Citizens
    (pp. 119-137)

    The authors of the American Constitution met behind closed doors in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787. When they completed their labors, the American public was, naturally enough, exceedingly curious about what they had done. A large crowd gathered around what is now known as Convention Hall. One of its members asked Benjamin Franklin, as he emerged from the building, “What have you given us?” Franklin’s answer was hopeful, or perhaps a challenge: “A republic, if you can keep it.” In fact we should see Franklin’s remark as a reminder of a continuing obligation. The text of any founding document...

  9. 6 Blogs
    (pp. 138-150)

    One of the more striking developments of the early twenty-first century has been the rise of weblogs, which can serve to elicit and aggregate the information held by countless contributors. Weblogs, or “blogs,” have been growing at a truly astounding rate—so much so that any current account will rapidly grow out of date. As of the present writing, there are over 55 million blogs, and over 40,000 new ones are created each day, with a new one every 2.2 seconds. (Question: How many blogs are created in the time it takes to read a short book?) In recent years,...

  10. 7 What’s Regulation? A Plea
    (pp. 151-164)

    On May 4, 2000, my computer received an odd email, entitled LOVE LETTER FOR YOU. The email contained an attachment. When I opened the email, I learned that the attachment was a love letter. The sender of the email was someone I’d never met—as it happens, an employee at Princeton University Press, the publisher of this very book. I thought I probably should look at this love letter, so I clicked once. But it occurred to me that this might not be a love letter at all, and so I didn’t click twice.

    I had been sent the ILOVEYOU...

  11. 8 Freedom of Speech
    (pp. 165-189)

    Were those responsible for the ILOVEYOU virus protected by the free-speech principle? It would be silly to say that they are. But if this form of speech may be regulated, what are the limits on government’s power?

    Consider a case involving not email but a website—a case that may, in some ways, turn out to be emblematic of the future. The site in question had a dramatic name: “The Nuremberg Files.” It began, “A coalition of concerned citizens throughout the USA is cooperating in collecting dossiers on abortionists in anticipation that one day we may be able to hold...

  12. 9 Policies and Proposals
    (pp. 190-211)

    There is a large difference between consumers and citizens, and a well-functioning democratic order would be compromised by a fragmented system of communications. Having urged these points, I do not intend to offer any kind of blueprint for the future; this is not a policy manual. Recall too that some problems lack solutions. But surely things can be made better rather than worse. In thinking about what might be done by either private or public institutions, it is important to have some sense of the problems that we aim to address, and of some possible ways of addressing them.

    If...

  13. 10 Republic.com
    (pp. 212-224)

    Much of what I have argued here is captured in some passages from two great theorists of freedom and democracy, John Stuart Mill and John Dewey. First, Mill:

    It is hardly possible to overstate the value, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with other persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. . . . Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.¹

    The belief that thought and its communication are...

  14. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 225-226)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 227-240)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 241-251)