Overall, I found this chapter to be very interesting, especially the ideas about technological determinism and the modern public sphere. In this post, I’d like to elaborate on the idea of the public sphere.
In seventeenth and eighteenth century Britain there were coffeehouses where people would meet and were allowed the chance to discuss politics and other topics of the elite in a public, but safe atmosphere. Prior to coffeehouses, there were parlors where society’s elite and educated were invited to discuss similar topics. The idea that these group discussions were exclusive for a while before coffeehouses were invented is similar to how digital news sources were before the open forums began.
On television and the radio, only those who were invited to speak, due to either money, education, or experience, had the opportunity to share their thoughts. Now, with online forums and viewers texting or calling in, everyone has the opportunity to speak. While most are strong proponents for more conversation, some are against giving everyone equal ground, because not everyone is an expert on everything. However, this begs some questions: doesn’t more participation make a better democracy? Is it more beneficial to have only the educated speak, or for everyone to have a say? Quality over quantity?
“What a small world!” This is something that I say often, although not surprisingly since I’m from the smallest state and I go to a small school. However, it appears that the world is shrinking smaller with the Internet, especially with blogs. The blogs I read daily are for entertainment or inspiration and they often link to other blogs, which leads me down a whole new trail of entertainment, and of course procrastination. I doubt that the bloggers personally know the authors of the other blogs, nor are they close via geographic location, and yet they are creating these ‘weak ties.’ The internet creates and foster thousands, if not millions of weak ties everyday. The way that I most often interact with people not inside my immediate circle of friends is mostly through Facebook. Sharing an article, liking a picture, or posting on someone’s wall is an easy way to initiate contact but doesn’t require much effort. Globalization through the Internet has certainly shrunk the world, but does it also foster more empty relationships? Are these relationships the same as weak ties, and thus beneficial or detrimental?