2.0 by Cass R. Sunstein (Princeton UP, 2007,
ISBN-10: 0691133565)
Reviewed by Catalin Gheorghe

ReadMe First Conflicts Res publica Daimonion's Plea Troubleshooting EULA ReadMe First: What's new in 2.0
A central tenet in the emerging mythos of the high-tech universe is that the initial incarnation of a product tends to be rather unpolished, pushed into the marketplace unfinished and before its time, because its authentic kairic moment was neglected in favor of pseudo-kairoi identified in the accounting or marketing departments of corporations. It is unclear whether in adopting this versioning style for the title of his book Cass Sunstein embraces this mythos: the subtitle of the book, "Revenge of the Blogs," points to Hollywood-like sequentiality, with its focus on continuity of story and character development across multiple episodes. Yet, the potential for such a reading is there, reinforced both by the graphic of the dust jacket that mimics a website1 and by the fact that technology plays a prominent role in this book. Also, the closing paragraphs of the preface leave one with the impression that this second iteration of the text is viewed by its author as an improvement on the original argument. Statements such as: "the current edition gives much greater attention to objections and counterarguments," "I have tried to incorporate new material about the actual effects of the Internet," or "I have greatly altered the discussion of policy recommendations deleting several that now seem to me badly ill-advised" lead naturally to the conclusion: "my hope is that 2.0 has benefited from that learning."

As all the quotes above indicate, however, we should view any such improvement that version 2.0 brings as mostly rhetorical: the direction of the argument did not change but rather its presentation and, the author hopes, its ability to persuade. This is most evident in the chapter devoted to blogs, absent in the first edition. Though greeted by some as "a kind of gigantic town meeting" that contributes to a "well-functioning public sphere" (139), blogs ultimately replicate, according to Sunstein, the same troubling tendencies he identifies in the other manifestations of the World Wide Web in terms of group polarization and one-sidedness of experiences; thus, observing that blogs exhibit the same prevalence of links to like-minded websites, he concludes that "if linking behavior on blogs can be taken as a proxy for how people are using the blogosphere, it is reasonable to think that many readers are obtaining one-sided views of political issues. For many people, blunders, confusion and extremism are highly likely, not in spite of the blogosphere but because of it" (150).

With this we find ourselves in medias res as regards both the argument advanced in 2.0 and, as it happens, the text itself. Although in our hypertextual age linear advance through texts has lost the privileged status it once had (Bolter 2001), it would be perhaps useful to work our way back out in order to track the progression of this inquiry Cass Sunstein makes into the role of new communication technologies in our society.
1. Interestingly, the interface displayed is that of a Mac, which recalls another Hollywood topos: a computing universe where the proportion of Mac to Windows users seems to be inverse to the one in real world.