One of the signal developments in democratic culture around the world in the past half-decade has been the increasing power of social media to both spread information and shape opinions. After the Arab Spring of 2011, many pointed to the liberating potential of platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Yet five years later, as many Americans reeled in shock from the election of an authoritarian bullshit artist (using philosopher Harry Frank's technical definition of the term), a few perceptive observers began looking at new at the social and political effects of dominant social media platforms, particularly Facebook. And they did not like what they saw.
The media studies and IP scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan is one of those sharp observers, and in Anti-Social Media he argues that our descent into dystopia stems in no small part from trends that have developed in the online world. The 2016 election saw a remarkable and dispiriting increase of people hiving themselves off within ideological echo chambers and treating fake news as real. Vaidhyanathan provides a structural explanation of why this happened, and he has located a culprit: social media, and more specifically Facebook. The founders of Facebook may have had (some) good intentions, but he contends that they have created a Frankenstein's monster that they have neither the will nor capacity to rein in. Fake news abounds, and the algorithms that undergird the platform drive people inexorably to news sites that conform to their ideological predilections--which Facebook can figure out with ease. Serious news reporting, already in a parlous state, has suffered even more as people on platforms like Facebook (meaning most people) are bombarded by both snippets of news from multiple sources and ads that look like news. Deliberative democracies require informed citizenries able to distinguish facts and falsehoods. By weakening those skills, social media is eroding the very foundations of our democratic republican culture. Social media-driven false news campaigns and ideological echo chambers are not only visible in the US, either--they are clearly on the rise in Europe and across the developing world too. Vaidhyanathan closes by offering offers a number of smart policy proposals that attack the problem, but they will undoubtedly be hard to enact. But the first order of business when facing a significant new crisis is to recognize its existence and explain what it is. Antisocial Media promises to be that path-breaking initial step toward understanding how social media is quickly undermining not only centuries of democratic progress, but civil society itself.
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Siva Vaidhyanathan is Professor of Media Studies, University of Virginia, and author of The Googlization of Everything.
Table of Contents
(To be uploaded)