My personal balkanization

In 1995 the term daily me began to be bandied about by some writers and thinkers, Nicholas Negroponte for example discussed the concept in his book Being Digital. The term’s democratic and social implications was developed in Cass Sunstein‘s book (2001). In this book (and followed up with Republic 2.0 in 2007) he argued that …the Internet may weaken democracy because it allows citizens to isolate themselves within groups that share their own views and experiences, and thus cut themselves off from any information that might challenge their beliefs… (Wikipedia). This process is sometimes known as cyberbalkanization but I feel the latter is a badly chosen term since it implies the need for cyber, which is not necessary.

No matter what term you prefer it is obvious that the daily-me phenomenon can be easily achieved with digital technology. Yesterday I took another step in my personal balkanization.

Already in my work the main part of my reading and writing is based on mainly non-Swedish sources and publications. The blogs I track track across the Internet are mainly non-local, defined by subject rather than geography. For lesuire I mainly read foreign magazines and books. I rarely read newspapers (not even online), seldom watch television (but plenty of DVDs) and since I travel around Sweden a great deal I tend to miss local events.

Together this leads to a negative (or positive – depends on your perspective) spiral and increased disinterest in local affairs.

Yesterday I took another step in my own personal balkanization by buying an Argon Internet radio. I was actually very skeptical to this but after I quick and easy install I now can listen to live radio from anywhere in the world (within the confines of language). My presets include English, American, Spanish, Maltese and Australian stations.

The little radio is perfect in my kitchen and connects easily to my wifi. In addition to this it actually does work as a “normal, old-fashioned” radio, which was a large factor in convincing me to chose this model but I have not felt the need to use it.

The argon even connects nicely to the music on my computer and to my personal selection of radio stations I chose on the radio website. My only gripe so far is that I have not managed to get the podcasts working but I guess I will have to read the manual.

So now it is even easier for me to ignore what is going on around me and focus on the stuff I like. This is becoming more than a daily me or a balkanization but it is definitaly a step in the fragmentization of a society. But at this stage I would like to quote Margaret Thatcher (I never thought that would happen) “Society does not exist“. Thatcher used this provocative statement to promote extreme individualism. But I would like to use this to remind us that “society” is a social construct which has no meaning outside that which we consciously and unconsciously agree to fill it with. But the short sharp Thatcherite version sounds better.

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