In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam discusses the impact of prevalent technologies on mass media and explains how particular advancements have allowed for radically different consumption patterns in society. Although the publication date of Bowling Alone does not readily allow for an examination of the Internet, one could argue that new technology has only served to fragment news consumption further. RSS feeds, for example, not only “pull” news (as opposed to content “pushed” by a broadcaster) but filter out unwanted stories. Although this automation is undoubtedly convenient for audiences, it might also have deleterious effects as silos of knowledge begin to spring up.
The United States has continually battled with competing interests—we are seeing a resurgence of this today with a disconnect between urban elites and populist movements—and the schism between left- and right-wing politics demonstrates the danger inherent in fragmentation. At present, the issue plaguing our country does not seem to center around strongly defined (and maintained) positions, but rather the lack of discourse between opposing views. With media figureheads like Rush Limbaugh, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olberman, and Glenn Beck, audiences tend to exist in an echo chamber; arguments by hosts and pundits only serve to further reinforce listeners’ predetermined positions.
As technology allows us to interact with a larger variety of people, we are finding that geopolitical boundaries are becoming less salient (to be sure, though, they are not yet irrelevant); individuals are self-aggregating into communities along dimensions that are of particular importance to them. Our current levels of technology have not allowed us to exclude considerations of our physical space from our lives—as we discussed in class, trucking continues to be the primary transport method of atoms—but one might speculate how teleportation would affect the way that relate to physical boundaries.