On Waxen Wings: Challenges to the Public Sphere in the Network Age
There is a tendency, particularly among Western pundits and technologists, to examine the Internet in almost universally positive terms; this is most evident in any discussion of the medium’s capacity for democratization. While the Internet has produced many great things for society in terms of cultural and economic production, some consideration must be given to the implications that such a revolutionary medium holds for the public sphere. By creating a communicative space that essentially grants everyone his or her own microphone, the Internet is fragmenting public discourse due to the proliferation of opinions and messages and the removal of traditional gatekeepers of information. More significantly, because of the structural qualities of the Internet, users no longer have to expose themselves to opinions and viewpoints that fall outside their own preconceived notions. This limits the robustness of the public sphere by limiting the healthy debate that can only occur when exposed to multiple viewpoints. Ultimately, the Internet is not going anywhere, so it is important to equip the public with the tools and knowledge to be able to navigate the digital space.