Home > Uncategorized > Blog 10: Republic.com 2.0

Blog 10: Republic.com 2.0

My reaction to the Sunstein book is overall positive. He brings up many valid points and offers detailed explanations and examples to further reiterate his claims. As well, as having good ideas, Sunstein also makes his book very easy to follow by specifically stating (whether through bullet points or transition words within paragraphs) what the reader is expected to learn from the following sections. His entire book succeeds in explicating his main purpose: to allow readers to understand the meaning of freedom of speech in a democratic society, by emphasizing that consumers are able to filter what they see.

In my opinion, the best part about the book was the chapter on blogs. It fits great in modern times because blogging has become such a phenomenon to communicators in the field of social media (even this class uses blogs to communicate).  Sunstein proposes two ways to look at the blogosphere:

First, we might believe that the blogosphere serves as a huge market, in a way that supports the claims of those who claim that free markets can help society to obtain the widely dispersed information that individuals have. Second, we might think that the blogosphere operates as a kind of gigantic town meeting, in a way that fits will with the claims of those who speak of  the operation of the well-functioning public sphere.

I think this is an excellent way of describing blogs and have never thought about them in this way. An interesting, and well-known, point he reiterates is that polarized blogs significantly divide communication among groups of people. In a sense, this is entirely true. Liberal blogs link to liberal websites and conservative ones with conservative ones; backing up Sunstein’s claim that the Internet isolates people. Even though the blogosphere increases the amount of information and perspectives, people are still likely to only receive one-sided views of political issues.

The worst part of the book was when Sunstein claimed that we should evaluate new communications technologies by asking how they affect us as citizens. New technologies are developed based on the need and demand of the consumers. So it’s hard to evalute new technologies from a non-consumer perspective. Also, Sunstein claims that when people lack taste for competing views of public issues they lack freedom. Is he also to agree that if someone has no interest at all in public issues (say they don’t watch the news) they do not have freedom?

Sadly, I would not recommend this book to anyone simply because the issues discussed seemed to be very redundant and were along the lines of topics that people are already aware of in their use of technology and media. I felt as if the book was much longer than it needed to be and the issues talked about could have been clearly conveyed in a more concise manner. However, I would recommend this book if someone wanted an in-depth look and analysis of these certain issues or if they wanted a reinforcement of issues that they were already aware of.

  1. April 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    You ask a good question at the end, in whether those who have no interest in public news/issues can be free. Sunstein might argue that without this public awareness there is no freedom. Rousseau, who I think influences Sunstein quite a bit, would argue that we need civic or public awareness to be truly free (in that it allows us to transcend our own personal interests or awareness), so I don’t know. Good question.

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