In a 2009 book about the social consequences of the Internet, The Age of the Infovore, the economist and blogger Tyler Cowen argues that new technologies enable us to decide what information to consume and, as a result, to remake ourselves. Instead of reading the same newspaper or watching the same television news, we can use new technologies to choose an idiosyncratic mix of sources and create our own unique micro-economy of information that not only reflects our tastes but helps us continually reshape them.
Public intellectuals don't agree on much. However, in recent years they seemed to nearly unanimously believe that American public life was in terrible shape. Political scientists debated whether voter turnout in national elections was merely stagnant or was actively declining. Sociologists suggested that television, overwork, and a breakdown in communal ties were undermining participation in both public and social life. There was chronic hand-wringing about the state of political debate, with civic activists proposing that America needed more deliberative dialogue among people with different points of view.