On 18 June, visiting professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, will be giving an afternoon ERMeCC talk on "Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects People and Undermines Democracy." The talk will take place in Polak 3-09 (Erasmus University campus) from 15:30-17:00.
If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energise hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine respectable journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook. Facebook grew out of an ideological commitment to data-driven decision making and logical thinking. Its culture is explicitly cosmopolitan and tolerant of difference and dissent. Both its market orientation and its labor force are global. Facebook also indulges a strong missionary bent, one that preaches the power of connectivity and the spread of knowledge to empower people to change their lives for the better. No company better represents the dream of a fully connected planet “sharing” words, ideas, images, and plans. No company has better leveraged those ideas into wealth and influence. No company has contributed more to the global collapse of basic tenets of deliberation and democracy. How did the mission go so wrong? Facebook’s leaders believed that good intentions were enough, and that blind faith in technology could generate a better world.
Siva Vaidhyanathan is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2018). He also wrote Intellectual Property: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2017), and The Googlization of Everything -- and Why We Should Worry (University of California Press, 2011). Vaidhyanathan directs the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, which produces a television show, a radio program, several podcasts, and the Virginia Quarterly Review magazine. After five years as a professional journalist, he earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Vaidhyanathan has also taught at Wesleyan University, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Columbia University, New York University, McMaster University, and the University of Amsterdam. He is a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities and a Faculty Associate of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. He was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and resides in Charlottesville, Virginia.