"Common Knowledge: Multiplying the Interface in Public Life"
Bruce Bimber
Department of Political Science, UC Santa Barbara
My brief remarks will be addressed to the topic of civic knowledge and discourse in democracy. One of the chief consequences of new technology relevant to democracy is the decentralization of political interfaces," such as the historical shift from a public sphere dominated by three networks and the morning newspaper to a public sphere inhabited by a virtually limitness set of information 'channels' that provide dramatically expanded choice and selection by citizens. I'll then suggest that this multiplication of interfaces raises the question of a tension between desireable and undesireable changes in the public sphere. One the one hand, new 'interfaces' contribute to one form of political equality in realm of knowledge and discourse. One the other hand, the same processes contributing to one form of equality also threaten to undermine the experience of the common, to reduce the presence of political universals, and to de-integrate the public sphere.