Siva Vaidhyanathan, Director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia and author of "Copyrights and Copywrongs" and "The Googlization of Everything," will talk on: "Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects People and Undermines Democracy."
If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energize 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 Intellectual Property: A Very Short Introduction from Oxford University Press, published in 2017, and The Googlization of Everything -- and Why We Should Worry from the University of California Press, published in 2011. He has written two previous books: Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity (New York University Press, 2001) and The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash between Freedom and Control is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System (Basic Books, 2004). He also co-edited (with Carolyn Thomas) the collection, Rewiring the Nation: The Place of Technology in American Studies (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).
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. He has appeared in an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to discuss early social network services. Vaidhyanathan has appeared in several documentary films, including Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013), Inside the Mind of Google (2009), and Freedom of Expression (2007). In 2016 Vaidhyanathan played a prominent role in the higher-education documentary, Starving the Beast. Vaidhyanathan was portrayed as a character on stage at the Public Theater in New York City in a play called Privacy (2016). Vaidhyanathan serves on the board of the Digital Public Library of America.
Vaidhyanathan has written for many periodicals, including The New York Times, Bloomberg View, American Scholar, Dissent, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times Magazine, Slate.com, BookForum, Columbia Journalism Review, Washington Post, The Guardian, Esquire.com, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times, and The Nation. He is a frequent contributor to public radio programs. And he has appeared on news programs on BBC, CNN, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, and ABC.
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.
This event is sponsored by the Department of Radio-Television-Film Endowed Professorship holders, the Technology and Information Policy Institute (TIPI), the Department of American Studies, and the Department of English.