Sean Richey and J. Benjamin Taylor have a new book on how Google searches affect democratic knowledge, “Google and Democracy: Politics and the Power of the Internet.” I asked them questions about what they found. Richey is an associate professor of political science at Georgia State University, while Taylor is assistant professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Public intellectuals are pessimistic about direct democracy, and they are also pessimistic about the consequences of the Internet for politics. Your book is optimistic about both. Why?
We are optimistic about the utility of Google searches, which is not quite the same as being optimistic about the Internet generally. The classic complaint about direct democracy, stretching back to Plato, is that an always up-to-date, well-informed public was impossible. So, it was suggested that we need a buffer against mass ignorance to administer the state. Well, Google now provides the impossible — instantaneous access to nearly the entirety of human knowledge — to billions of users, and scholars and intellectuals have not fully grasped the amazing ramifications of that for democratic theory.
Read the full piece at The Washington Post.