Mass media, the communications technology that became supreme in the 20th century, has ruined debates. The Lincoln-Douglas confrontations in 1858 and other verbal contests were once among the deepest and most revelatory of conversations. They revealed intellect and passion, and illuminated the issues of their day. Today?s mass media, reflecting a cultural short attention span, elevates shallowness.
But technology can also help restore the debate. The Internet and digital tools - search, blogging, online video, wikis, interactive games, and virtual worlds - are made to order for serious conversations. The collision of technology with media offers an unparalleled chance to hold debates that would illuminate our problems and opportunities and give us true insight into the people who want us to elect them.