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Princeton University Press, 2001 - Control (Psychology). - 236 pages
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See only what you want to see, hear only what you want to hear, read only what you want to read. In cyberspace, we already have the ability to filter out everything but what we wish to see, hear, and read. Tomorrow, our power to filter promises to increase exponentially. With the advent of the Daily Me, you see only the sports highlights that concern your teams, read about only the issues that interest you, encounter in the op-ed pages only the opinions with which you agree. In all of the applause for this remarkable ascendance of personalized information, Cass Sunstein asks the questions, Is it good for democracy? Is it healthy for the republic? What does this mean for freedom of speech? exposes the drawbacks of egocentric Internet use, while showing us how to approach the Internet as responsible citizens, not just concerned consumers. Democracy, Sunstein maintains, depends on shared experiences and requires citizens to be exposed to topics and ideas that they would not have chosen in advance. Newspapers and broadcasters helped create a shared culture, but as their role diminishes and the customization of our communications universe increases, society is in danger of fragmenting, shared communities in danger of dissolving. In their place will arise only louder and ever more extreme echoes of our own voices, our own opinions.

In evaluating the consequences of new communications technologies for democracy and free speech, Sunstein argues the question is not whether to regulate the Net (it's already regulated), but how; proves that freedom of speech is not an absolute; and underscores the enormous potential of the Internet to promote freedom as well as its potential to promote "cybercascades" of like-minded opinions that foster and enflame hate groups. The book ends by suggesting a range of potential reforms to correct current misconceptions and to improve deliberative democracy and the health of the American republic.

Chat with Cass Sunstein in a Message Forum hosted beginning April 1, 2001.


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Quick takeaway: Personalized news readers and political websites that preach to the choir have stripped Americans of the 'surprise rhetoric' one might find in the public square and general newspapers. Folks ought to expose themselves to thoughtful rhetoric from varying viewpoints, for a few reasons: basic input; the need to challenge the intellectual sufficiency of your own position (can you debate the WSJ or Times OpEd page); and, generally, to take part in the marketplace of ideas that is crucial to the Republic.  


The Daily Me
An Analogy and an Ideal
Fragmentation and Cybercascades
Social Glue and Spreading Information
Whats Regulation? A Plea
Freedom of Speech
Policies and Proposals
Conclusion Republiccom
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About the author (2001)

Cass Sunstein has written extensively on constitutional law, the First Amendment, and jurisprudence. He is the Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago Law School and Department of Political Science and is the author of numerous books, including Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech, The Partial Constitution, After the Rights Revolution, Free Markets and Social Justice, One Case at a Time: Judicial Minimalism on the Supreme Court, and, with Stephen Holmes, The Cost of Rights.

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