Digital Cosmopolitans

Digital Cosmopolitans The Enormous Scope Of The Internet Can Lead Us To Assume That As The Online Community Grows, Our World Grows Smaller And Cosmopolitan In Digital Cosmopolitans, Ethan Zuckerman Explains Why The Technological Ability To Communicate With Someone Does Not Guarantee Human Interaction Or The Healthy Exchange Of Information And Ideas Combining The Latest Psychological And Sociological Research With Current Trends Both Online And Off, Digital Cosmopolitans Highlights The Challenges We Face And The Headway Being Made In Creating A World That Is Truly Connected

Ethan Zuckerman is the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media A media scholar, Internet activist, and blogger, he lives in Lanesboro, Massachusetts.

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  • Paperback
  • 320 pages
  • Digital Cosmopolitans
  • Ethan Zuckerman
  • 06 July 2018
  • 9780393350326

10 thoughts on “Digital Cosmopolitans

  1. says:

    To make a complex and interesting book short, this book calls for a re evaluation of what it means to be a true cosmopolitan in the age of the Internet It is simply not enough to use modern social media and thus claim to have access to all of the world s information It is necessary to seek out and discuss with those who share different perspectives than yours, and empathize with another s point of view.With the rise of what Eli Parisier has called the Filter Bubble , search engines tailor their results to individual tastes News sources and other archives that are not normally preferred just slip away from the unknowing reader Further, with the trend of what sociologists call homophily , people associate with those who have similar social backgrounds, such as race, age, gender, political beliefs, occupation, and so forth As if all this isn t enough, Zuckerman notes that language also forms a barrier to information on the internet The vast majority of internet users prefer to use sites which are in their native language, thus segregating the Internet further into different blocs The English Internet is not the Russian Internet is not the Chinese Internet Each has their own major sites, and only those who can speak than one language can navigate them modern computer translation tools can only do so much for non Romance languages Rewire is a book with a broad reach, and the disparate anecdotes Zuckerman uses seem to have no real relation at first But as the story progresses, it becomes possible to ask the most important questions about the future of society, technology, and modern communication.

  2. says:

    There are far too many books about technology and society that start with a premise and then beat it to death We ve recently been treated to a large number of ideological diatribes explaining how the internet is transforming everything, either for the better or the worse The irony is that most of those decrying the impact of the internet demonstrate the very weaknesses of internet argument they claim to excoriate they argue from authority, they attack those who disagree with them, and they use overblown statements link bait, in Internet parlance to attract attention.Rewire, on the other hand, is a thoughtful exploration, based on decades of real world experience, of what the internet changes, and what it doesn t, about human society This is the best book on the Internet that I ve read in a long time.It should be widely read and discussed.

  3. says:

    Just concluded a conversation about Rewire with Ethan on the WELL has studied the global impact of Internet technology for many years, and was cofounder with Rebecca MacKinnon of Global Voices, a global blog aggregator and great source of global perspective In Rewire, he puts his experience to work, reviewing the problems and promise of global connectedness The Internet for many of us appeared as a platform to further democratic intent, if not make democracy workable That promise is still in the air, but we also see that the Internet can facilitate echo chambers and contribute to polarization, propaganda, xenophobia, fragmentation, distraction, etc Ethan discusses how bridge figures can work across cultures and how we can create contexts for constructive argument and possible synthesis An important book that will hopefully inspire constructive thinking about cross cultural communication.

  4. says:

    I thought the content of this book was interesting However, I really couldn t get over the fact that the author just assumes that the reader wants or should want to be a digital cosmopolitan I m not saying I don t think being one would be great, but he directly alludes to the caring problem that needs to be overcome and provides no suggestions to get there I m not one to consider myself to be all that cosmopolitan at least not in the sense that the author describes one as i.e an emphasis on global cultural awareness I think a lot about the fact that I should read the news but I have a hard time motivating myself to This book provided no such motivation I spent the entire book being mad and indignant at the authors assumptions that being a cosmopolitan in the way he describes is a superior way to live and something we should aspire to I do honestly think there are merits and benefits to exposing oneself to diversity, but the author really doesn t spell these out at all and I don t think it should be left up to me to guess why I should suddenly care about things I don t currently care about The author brings up the fact that it s hard to care about topics that are unfamiliar to us but then provides no suggestions as to why we SHOULD care and if we should, how to get ourselves to do so.

  5. says:

    Ethan has crafted a beautiful, engaging book for all who seek to transcend the cultural, political, and linguistic barriers that history has placed between us Unfortunately, I fear that those of us who aspire to global citizenship are a small and diminishing minority In a world where information is everywhere, time is compressed, and attention is fragmented, I sense an emerging impulse to cultivate local community around common shards of our fragmented culture.Rewire begins with several anecdotes that demonstrate how seemingly globalized our physical world has become, while the globalization of culture and communication lag behind Residents of Boston, for example, drink bottled water from Fiji without a second thought, but few are aware that Fiji experienced a military takeover in 2006 Far fewer have heard the music of Voqa Mosimosi or seen The Land Has Eyes , the first and only Fijian feature film Noting that it costs only 18 cents to ship a liter of water from Fiji to the US, Ethan observes that it has proven complicated to move the weightless bits of Fijian culture across the Internet than to move atoms of Fiji s water from a distant island to your neighborhood grocer.However, in the very next chapter, Imaginary Cosmopolitanism, we are cautioned to not take Fiji as a representative sample of globalization s forward march Citing figures from Pankaj Ghemawat s challenge to Thomas Friedman s assertion that the world is flat, Ethan observes that venture capitalists still invest 80% of their capital domestically, only 20% of stock market shares are owned by foreign investors, and only 7% of the world s rice is sold across international borders The flat world view looks at infrastructures of connectivity and conflates what could be with what will be It blurs three separate phenomena the globalization of atoms, people, and bits into a single trend The infrastructure that it celebrates container shipping, air travel, and the Internet quite obviously have the potential to shrink distance and integrate economies and cultures But they re held in check by social, legal, economic, and cultural forces that make the blurring of international borders a slow, gradual, and uneven process.In all three cases atoms, people, and bits Ethan finds that we tend to overestimate the pace of globalization Products made in China represent only 2.7% of US consumer spending and only 17% of the food that Americans consume comes from abroad Ethan cites the figure 7% from a 2008 article, but as of 2009 the USDA claims 17% Notably, the importation of plant products increased from 16.8% in 1990 to 25.6% in 2009 Similarly, in the case of the globalization of people, Ethan notes that global migration is significantly lower than it was 100 years ago If you follow the debate around immigration reform in the United States you might be led to believe that millions of Mexicans are waiting at the US border to cross as soon as any change is made to immigration policy In fact, only 11% of Mexicans say they would like live in another country And in 2010 net migration from Mexico to the US was zero maybe even less That is, Mexicans migrated from the US to Mexico than vise versa Even the most cosmopolitan of regions North America and Western Europe are surprisingly domestic Only 9.4% of those living in European countries were born in another country Only 14% of those living in the US were born elsewhere, compared to 21.3% of those living in Canada Migration is easily explained in leaps and bounds that are shaped by economic development, war, and natural disaster than as part of a linear narrative of steady globalization.Our overestimation of the globalization of atoms and people pales in comparison to to our assumptions about the globalization of culture and communication Assuming that we are interested in becoming so, there is no reason we shouldn t all be cosmopolitans now In 1970, your average international phone call cost 2.43 a minute It was nearly impossible to gain access to foreign newspapers, and video conferencing was a thing of science fiction A decade ago you might have had access to CNN and the BBC in your hotel room in Johannesburg, but you couldn t have dreamed of constant, streaming access to live news in English from local sources in Japan, France, China, Russia, and Qatar You didn t have access to Google News incredible archive Nor could you saunter down the streets of all seven continents using Street View.And yet, the Project on Excellence in Journalism found a drop in front page coverage of foreign affairs from 27% to 14% among sixteen major US newspapers between 1979 and 2009 Similar studies have found even greater drops in international coverage on television and radio news broadcasts The same holds true for consumers of online news According to data from Google s Ad Planner, Ethan informs us, 94% of page views by US internet users are for domestic websites 99.9% of page views by Chinese internet users are for domestic websites Netflix, Spotify, and may give us access than ever before to movies, albums and books produced in other countries, but it seems that the increase in supply has occurred along with a decrease in demand for content from other countries Or, alternatively, perhaps the demand for information about other cultures never existed in the first place Rather, we were force fed information about other cultures by elitist editors who felt it their duty to inform readers about current affairs around the world Now that those editors and curators have less influence, we dedicate of our attention to what we care the most about ourselves, our family, and our friends.Building on the work of Robert Putnam, Ethan uses the analogy of cities to explain how access to diverse content online may actually cause us to hunker down and stick with content and relationships that we are already familiar with Extensive research by Putnam and his colleagues found a strong correlation between ethnic diversity and the decline in civic participation Unfortunately, it seems that an increase in diversity is accompanied by a decrease in public trust and cooperation To put it another way, it s much easier to stick to groups of individuals just like us think of the groups of friends in popular TV shows like Girls, Friends, Arrested Development and Mad Men than to expose ourselves to the awkwardness and anxiety of socializing with those who may have different beliefs, values and customs.In fact, our provincial online behavior matches the lives we lead offline A heatmap made by Wall Street Journal editor Zach Seward reminds us of a truth we d rather ignore our lives are pathetically limited to the same few locations over and over again despite an infinity of potential experiences Engineering Cosmopolitanism Having made a convincing case that we continue to lack cosmopolitan practices despite having all the tools at our disposal, Ethan dedicates the second half of the book to exploring what can be done to rewire the Internet so that users are exposed to content from other cultures He approaches the challenge with the perspective of an engineer, but his recommendations are far from the solutionist widgets and algorithms that one may expect In fact, his vision for a rewired, cosmopolitan Internet depends on people certain types of individuals equipped with increasingly important skills the remainder of the review is here

  6. says:

    Poorly executed attempt at calling into action a global, and networked society I read with great precision the first half of the book, but then the second half was skimmed, especially since the conclusion had all the main points one needed to get from the book Things I did not find amusing about this author 1 he just assumes that being aware of international affairs is a positive thing and should be some thing we all default to, but as a social scientist I am forced to ask WHY you can t just say it is important and necessary without giving the reader any reasoning2 it was a plain bullet point list of oh I did this , look at my work in Cambridge , guess what I talked to this scholar on Skype and this is what he said , at MIT my fellow scholars are researching this stuff there was no concise argument and he kept jumping around from one fact to the next 3 repeating arguments of confirmation bias and the fact that we all create self tailored social media and news outlet habits is REDUNDANT I think by now we all know that we do this online and avoid seeing individuals opinions and experiences that differ from ourselves Please be creative and either explain the significance of this or move on 4 promoting your own website clap clap clap are you proud of yourself

  7. says:

    But rewiring is also about the wires, no A discussion about net culture, it s parochial tendencies, and ways to support network diversity and foster serendipitous discovery are all reasons why I like this book This work is a conscious apologetic for cyber utopianism The author argues that idealism for the web is not an empty hope What feels cloyingly missing is the economic and material side of this net culture The closest that we get to a discussion of this is in the analysis of a pre internet example of a cross cultural collaboration Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo s story, argues Zuckerman, is not one of cultural appropriation, because Paul Simon had an earnest xenophilia and because of the good financial arrangement he made with LBM Okay, so why not then talk about digital labour in cross cultural global collaborations At first I think it might just be an oversight, but then in the final chapters the discussion turns to corporations Companies need xenophiles, argues Zuckerman A simple point, but for what purpose To put a good face on the imperialism of a multinational Sure, the Dutch East India Company may have lacked these, but English imperial forces, merchants, and missionaries had plenty Xenophilia, a subject s love for whatever they perceive to be culturally other, is not enough Often during the book, I would try swap or complement solidarity for xenophilia During the Apartheid regime it was not enough for Paul Simon to love black South African culture there were greater expectations Did the collaboration violate the cultural boycott imposed by much of the world Did it join in a demonstration of solidarity against the regime Maybe solidarity isn t the right word, but like xenophilia it is present in weak and strong social connections and is the difference between wiring for intense exchange and wiring for transformation.

  8. says:

    I read this book hoping to find an interesting text for my undergrad students on media and politics in the digital age Zuckerman does a decent job of presenting a few important social science ideas and theories in an accessible way for a lay audience But there are some things he oversimplifies enough that his descriptions become truly misleading The worst part of book, however, is the never ending series of vignettes Used carefully, and thoughtfully tied to the larger ideas that are then fully explicated outside of the anecdote, vignettes can be powerful But used in this quantity, they re just a lazy narrative device that quickly becomes tiresome Though slightly sophisticated that Thomas Friedman s patented here s what my cab driver s story tells us about the whole world shtick, the never ending parade of enlightening stories left me perpetually rolling my eyes.

  9. says:

    The Internet will not magically turn us into digital cosmopolitans Very good book, very good thoughts I made a lot of notes.

  10. says:

    Realizing we re parochial and understanding what we re ignoring is different than being parochial while suspecting we re fairly cosmopolitan Ethan Zuckerman makes a convincing case that our media exposure is far less diverse than we would think and that the Internet might even be fortifying our parochial tendencies.While it seems there s nothing left on store shelves that isn t made in China, Zuckerman points out that fewer than three percent of US consumer spending goes to Chinese goods We re in the midst of a global immigration crisis, yet immigration rates peaked before WWII Exports account for just twenty percent of global production, and only three percent of books in the US come from international authors J.K Rowling factors into this figure Despite what Thomas Friedman says, the world is not yet flat Now that we re globalized We permit him too much even in his premise.Ethan Zuckerman is curious about why our media attention ends up where it does He points out that the proportion of news dedicated to international stories these days is less than it was decades ago So while we re no longer at the complete mercy of the news outlets and freer to track news down for ourselves online, somehow less of it crosses our borders Interestingly this is a global phenomenon and not just an American one so it seems like only an incremental improvement towards cosmopolitanism is necessary to make USA number one.I was fairly surprised that our exposure to international coverage has so drastically diminished Part of the problem Zuckerman attributes to the major news outlets no longer being able to afford their foreign bureaus, but otherwise he doesn t wander too far into speculation about why this may be throughout Rewire awareness of insufficiency is most often the primary goal But maybe he could have included some figures on political activeness on the local level like beyond simply voting You can only increase your media consumption so much, so at some point international and local media are rivalrous goods For example, if people were getting politically active at the local level a shift in coverage from the international to the national and local levels would make sense given the coverage s rivalrous relationship Even if this were the case Zuckerman s objective would still remain unchanged in consuming media from one region perspective, we should be aware of where our attention is not going He also points to the good bit of research showing the benefit of diversity within organizations doing a good job at pointing out how diversity is not something to be revered without understanding its complexities , so even those active on the local level would benefit from a global view and international camaraderies A second, hopefully not too cynical, speculation With NPR style international news coverage we no longer hear coverage of events but instead get stories of the individuals impacted by them This personal angle is meant to bolster the event s empathic weight, but often the result is that we re apt to dismiss the event Like Oh thank goodness, nothing s really going on, it s just some guy s story Or else it feels like the news outlet is just topping off some self imposed diversity quota Nothing is really going on in other countries See, after fishing around for some big news all they came up with were some interviews with a few locals But there s also a lack of border penetrating content because there aren t enough human translators or precisely, there aren t enough humans interested in translating Computer translation is improving but not yet adequate to the task either Translation of a single article even about a consequential event is not enough We need enough translated material to allow a contextual base for interest to develop around in that region of the world Even when the translated material is there and we have a sort of superficial contextual base, we still run into what Zuckerman calls a caring problem knowing nothing about and no one from the affected country He highlights bridge figures those who have feet in two cultural worlds, i.e context providers and xenophiles people who can t stop themselves from crossing these bridges It s a good bit of analysis and Zuckerman s Global Voices project is an attempt to increase visibility of bridge figures and translators by collecting them in one place.Ethan is uncomfortable dictating what percentage of media consumption should be allotted to any given country Again, his goal is consumption awareness, and he is busy now at the MIT Center for Civic Media making quantified self kind of tools to track and make us aware of our personal habits along these lines He encourages others to take up these kind of projects too, which seems like a good initiative as long as it doesn t become gamified and no longer about comprehension or compassion, but badges Using such tools to consciously remake our media diets also risks developing all the neurosis that accompany nutritional dieting regimens Ethan wants to go beyond awareness to designed serendipity remaking the Web so that our strolls around it are potentially cosmopolitan He s been talking about serendipity for years I m skeptical to what degree it can be designed It seems likely that serendipity is a set figure You could bias the infrastructure and dictate where it is diverted, say, global at the expense of local, but at this point again you have to be transparent about your intentions and keep the user aware of what they are forgoing Like would someone who is extremely politically active at a local level want their search engine result globally skewed They might if they can find solidarity with other communities in similar plights, but then they might miss out on some pertinent development on the local level In the same transmission what is signal to the novice might be noise to the expert and vice versa The same would be true of the globally and locally oriented activist I bring this up not to draw support from Ethan s effort to raise awareness of our media consumption, but to maybe highlight pitfalls of designing serendipity It s not a huge fault either With the figures he provided on average we can use global exposure, and it s certainly not localism Zuckerman is against but parochialism.I often found myself thinking of Peter Singer s expanding circle where definition of in group expands from small band to village to city to country then to all humanity and on then to animals It s necessarily an expanding circle of diversity Then there s Steven Pinker s recent work showing that pretty much any way you can think to measure it, violence has been on a continual decline since the dawn of recorded history Kevin Kelly points to evidence that technological progression mirrors the trajectory of evolution trending towards complexity among other things I wonder how fixed these trends are it seems doubtful that they can be goosed beyond their natural pace Diversity via serendipity can only be planned if that objective and its mechanism are invisible to the subject otherwise, again, it feels like a diversity quota On the other hand, successful invisibility requires some sort of master planner puppet master if you want to be a little conspiratorial to which not only beneficent motives but competency must be entrusted of course search results, for example, are never strictly objective The mechanism behind an expansion of diversity might be something like Schumpeter s creative destruction under which innovation is continuously destroying the current paradigm Although we might collectively benefit from innovation, it s not an unbridled process because we can expect those with vested interests to resist And we can expect parochial interests to resist in the same way against expansion into the global and the diverse.In this respect it is Rewire as an argument and not precisely its suggested actions that functions as the mechanism for expansion Awareness of a world beyond is necessary before venturing into it It s a question of whether we re rewiring for attention or intention.Zuckerman points to a history of the Internet being compared to a city before taking on the metaphor himself It s a useful comparison, but he maybe underestimates the degree that cyberspace coincides with physical space A contextual foothold is critical in understanding news reports about other cultures, but there is another barrier which is not as well addressed Perceived relevance is necessary to want to gain that foothold Don t we care about the news of our nation much than international stories not simply because of lack of context outside our borders but lack of perceived impact within them Citizens are accountable to their own governments after all, not the laws of other countries, and while arguing that policy of one government affects others is logical, it s a strain to envision the impact we quickly end up with what seems like a lot of butterflies in Brazil Again, how much can these processes be hastened Can you goose perceived relevance when even the ethereal Internet lies over top a country After all it s much easier to become Foursquare mayor of the local dive than the Foursquare mayor of some place in Burundi The map may not be the territory, but neither is it so distinct as to precede the territory not yet, at least.I do worry a little that this review might make the book out to be less nuanced a read than it is, and despite my own commentary here, I ll point out that Ethan is not a heavy user of the words should and shouldn t one of his many likable traits Blind spots are not the places where we ve concluded that s just not that interesting, after all they re actually blind While countless American commentators, most notably Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have criticized China s firewall and decried Chinese censorship, far fewer have pointed out that there s potentially important uncensored Chinese news that never reaches an English speaking audience Rewire is most powerfully a tool of introspection, and while the mechanism for progress towards a cosmopolitan world is too complex to be anything but correlative, Ethan Zuckerman is no doubt playing some part And if we do get frustrated with the pace of progress, and , at least, the Internet seems to be a facilitator of sudden critical masses An interesting complementary read might be Cyrus Farivar s The Internet of Elsewhere .

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