In a new book, MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman asserts that we need to overcome the Internet’s sorting tendencies and create tools to make ourselves ‘digital cosmopolitans.’
The Internet promises a seemingly frictionless way of connecting individuals from around the globe. But in reality, that’s not what happens online: Instead, we clump together with people similar to ourselves, and have those affinities reinforced by tools that guide us to other people or products that resemble those we already know.
Perhaps we can change that, though, and better incorporate new, international perspectives and knowledge into our everyday lives. That, at least, is the thesis of “Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection,” a new book by MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman, published this month by W.W. Norton.
“There was this early promise on the Internet that no one cares if you’re coming from Japan or Jordan or Jamaica, as along as you have something to add to the conversation,” says Zuckerman, director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media and principal research scientist at the MIT Media Lab. “But it seemed to me that we’ve been getting narrower and narrower views of the world [online]. I wasn’t even getting the perspective I’d get from a good newspaper.”