Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection
W.W. Norton 2014
New Books in CommunicationsNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in TechnologyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network November 6, 2014 Matthew Raffety
In the early days of the Internet, optimists saw the future as highly connected, where voices from across the globe would mingle and learn from one another as never before. However, as Ethan Zuckerman argues in Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection (Norton, 2013), just because a connection is possible does not mean disparate voices are being heard. Instead, things and not ideas have become more connected; we now live in a world where is easier to get a bottle of water from a tropical island halfway around the world than it is to get (let alone comprehend) news from that island.
Zuckerman, a media scholar and activist based at MIT, suggests despite our perceived “connectedness,” the wired world is actually becoming more provincial and narrow, as we shift from professionally curated news and information, to search engines and algorithmically selected information based on previous “likes” and those of our homogeneous social circles. In other words, we are getting more and more of what we already know we want with ever-greater efficiency, but not what we need to be informed participants in a global world.
In an expansive analysis that takes on everything from the global response to modern pandemics, to Greek philosophy, to the “Arab Spring,” to musical hybridization across cultures, Zuckerman calls for a world of “digital cosmopolitans,” where those who can bridge between communities are called upon to foster deeper, more nuanced conversations around the globe in ways that fulfill the promise of expanding technological opportunities.
At once a thoughtful analysis, an engaging history, and a bold call to arms, Rewire offers readers a deep understanding of how media is evolving to shape and be shaped by global voices. As such, it has vast implications at both personal and geopolitical levels for the future of information, technology.