22 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2003
The printing press helped create modern nationalisms, as books and newspapers came to be written in the vernacular, encouraging a conception of a shared community among groups of people who would never actually meet. It thus seems only natural to ask what today's innovation in mass communication, the Internet, will mean for political communities. In his book, REPUBLIC.COM (2001), Cass Sunstein contends that the advent of personalized information sources available in cyberspace threatens republican deliberation. But where Sunstein worries about the "Daily Me" made possible by electronic intermediaries that deliver news tailored to a reader's tastes, I observe that, for minorities, the traditional media offer the "Daily Them" - a vision of society focused on its dominant members.
I suggest that cyberspace helps counter the elision of minority experiences in the traditional media. Because of technical features such as end-to-end design, the Internet and the World-Wide-Web enhance the ability of marginalized people to have their voices heard, and indeed to find a voice. At the same time, cyberspace may help reinvent community, pulling us out of territorially-imagined spaces in favor of transnational, affective communities. In many ways, cyberspace presents a cosmopolitan ideal, where individuals may be drawn together based on interests and passions, rather than territory or national identity.
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