Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Daily Me vs See for Yourself

Our readings this week painted two different pictures of networked society.
In The Daily Me version, we filter out everything but a customized version of life, leading to a less educated, more polarized society. In Wealth of Networks, the networked public sphere is far superior to mass media culture of the past and allows us to take control over information.
In the following table, I compare some of the basic points in each view.

Daily Me                                                                        Wealth of Networks
I filter out what I don’t want to hear. I am only exposed to the voices and information I agree with.
I don’t have to rely on the “trust me” world of mass communication. Instead, I can “see for myself”.
I don’t share common experiences with others so society becomes more fragmented.
Common experiences are created from the ground up, not the top down. I discover like-minded groups with the same concerns and can take on issues that otherwise would be lost.
There’s too much noise and dissonance on the internet. Individual voices can’t be heard and that leads to polarization. Because I only listen to those I agree with, there’s an echo chamber effect.
The internet allows for easier transmission of opinions and ideas. I work out questions and discuss information with others. The issues that are rise to the level of importance cross barriers. I am more engaged.
I only pay attention to what matters to me.
I ask the question, “What do I care about”. The “see for yourself” factor allows me to find others who care about that issue.

   I’m not sure which theory is more plausible. I can’t imagine we could get to the point that we’re closed off to all diversity of opinion, as suggested by The Daily Me. But I do see more polarization today than ever before and I wonder if there is something of an “echo chamber” effect that prevents us from hearing each other.
As illustrated in the Wealth of Networks, there is great potential for individuals to bring issues and information to light that might have been lost in the traditional mass media model. But I worry that under the “see for yourself” model, people still simply look for information that supports what they believe.

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