In this article, Cass Sunstein discusses the ways in which the Internet has caused a decline in public knowledge/a coherent public sphere due to the proliferation of self-selection. Online, people can choose to look at the news and sites that interest them, and they can completely ignore or fail to come into contact with pieces that oppose their ideals. Because of online news individualization, we’re seeing more political polarization and blind ignorance.
Sunstein explains that while emerging technologies like the Internet aren’t necessarily the enemy, individualization and the ways in which we currently use new technology pose a threat to democracy, because “a well-functioning democracy depends… on some kind of public sphere, in which a wide range of speakers have access to a diverse public– and also to particular institutions, and practices, against which they seek to launch objections.”
Sunstein suggests several ways in which journalists and media corporations may counteract this problem. All of Sunstein’s suggestions rest on the idea that media producers will willingly choose to band together to reverse the current problem… In my mind, these solutions seem a bit unfeasible. Because media producers compete for audience’s in a capitalist economy, their main priority is increasing audience size and making money. It’s not the most idealistic way of viewing the world, but it’s the reality behind most major news production. And for media producers, individualization is profitable. I find it hard to believe that news producers would band together to do something “for the greater good” without any direct economic incentive. My guess is that in order to inspire producers to create change, we as a national audience must first band together and complain about the problem/push for change. If their audiences are happy and there’s no economic incentive to change the ways in which they operate, media producers won’t have enough inspiration to band together, work cooperatively, and solve the individualization problem.
The real problem then becomes inspiring enough Americans to care about the individualization problem enough to demand change… which will be hard to do because a vast number of Americans enjoy the current atmosphere of individualization and media control.