Ethan Zuckerman – Rewire

Chapter 1 Connection, Infection, Inspiration

Whether we’ re concerned with fighting epidemics like SARS or reacting to geopolitical shifts like the Arab Spring, we need a broad, global picture so that we can anticipate threats, seize opportunities, and make connections. The existence of mobile telephony, satellite television, and the Internet suggests that information should be available from throughout the world at unprecedented volumes. Yet a central paradox of this connected age is that while it’s easier than ever to share information and perspectives from different parts of the world, we may now often encounter a narrower picture of the world than in less connected days.

  • Earlier sociological theories (“contact theory”, “conflict theory”) vs. “constrict theory” – a tendency to shy away from contact when presented with diversity.
  • (Putnam’s study) people living in ethically diverse settings are less likely to vote, work on community projects, give to charity, or volunteer … they have less confidence in government’s ability to solve problems, fewer friends, and a lower perceived quality of life.
  • “Picasso moments”: the Internet will not magically turn us into digital cosmopolitans.
  • “cyberutopianism” vs. “cyberskepticism”

(Langdon Winner) The arrival of any new technology that has significant power and practical potential always brings with it a wave of visionary enthusiasm that anticipates the rise of a utopian social order.

To succeed in a connected world, to fight infection and embrace inspiration, we need a wider view. We need to encounter unexpected influences, like the masks that shaped Picasso’s career. We need to put events like the Benghazi attack in proportion, and we need to discover what’s missing. We need to take a longer and wider look, approaching the first explanations of a mystery with skepticism, probing for a fuller picture. We need to find guides who can help us translate and contextualize what we’re seeing so that we can understand what’s really going on in the world.

Chapter 2 Imaginary Cosmopolitanism

  • (Fiji Water) a portrait of incomplete globalization;
  • We are facing a flattening, not a flattened world – money prefers to stay at home, commodities immobile like rice, export represents 20% of global GDP, etc.
  • Atoms are still so immobile: regulations like protecting domestic cotton farmers; technological developments haven’t radically increased the volume of international migration;

If the global flow of atoms is constrained by trade restrictions and by taste, and flow of information is constrained by our interest and attention.

  • (Times of India) Information may flow globally, but our attention tend to be highly local and highly tribal; we care more deeply about those with whom we share a group identity and much less about a distant “other”;
  • Should be cognizant  of  the difference between Infrastructure vs. flow;
  • Regression fallacy: the cognitive bias to pay more attention to unusual moments in our lives than to the ones closer to our average, everyday existence.
  • Homophily: the unease we feel when we witness self-segregation;
  • (Wimmer and Lewis’s study) structural change is the solution (e.g. force different people to share the same room) to homophily;

Chapter 3 When What We Know is Whom We Know

  • What’s the appropriate level of media coverage for a nation to receive? difficult to define what factors SHOULD contribute to newsworthiness but worth looking what factors help explain…
  • GDP explained 60% of the variation in news coverage; the other: involvement of the US military; (BBC) GDP + British colonial legacy model;
  • (Galtung and Ruge) events that transpire over a very long time are less likely to become news than those that happen within a twenty-four-hour news cycle; events that are more unambiguous are more likely to become news; news is likely to reflect our preconceptions (e.g. conflict or famine in Africa)

(Bernard Cohen) the press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.

  • (Hallin’s spheres) sphere of consensus -> sphere of legitimate debate -> sphere of deviance: the press plays a role in exposing , condemning, or excluding from the public agenda the deviant views.
  • Shift from curation to search (also social media) in the way we organize information. Can we choose our news wisely without any curatorial assistance?

(Sunstein) The rise of blogs makes it all the easer for people to live in echo chambers of their own design.

  • Our online friends aren’t as diverse as the population of the nation we live in; our filter bubbles insulate us from content that is not just outside of our ideology but also outside of our orbits of geography and familiarity; it’s not we filter out international news, it’s that we tend to filter out news that doesn’t connect to our lives and our interests.

Chapter 4 Global Voices

Inequalities in media attention are in part a demand problem. If audiences aren’t interested in Madagascar, the wealth of stories we provide from that strange and fascinating nation go unread unless we can help audiences see how strange and fascinating they are.

Chapter 5 Found in Translation

(The book is returned to library since then)


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