What kind of social space are we inhabiting when we’re online? How do practices like data collection, data brokering, and surveillance underwrite the “free” services we enjoy? And who gets hit hardest by the privacy violations that are becoming increasingly commonplace?
This episode was recorded in two parts. Part one, about Facebook and democracy, features Siva Vaidhyanathan:
Part two, about privacy and power, features Alice E. Marwick:
View a list of discussion questions related to these episodes here.
- 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) and The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry) (University of California Press, 2012).
- Alice E. Marwick is an associate professor of communication and the principle researcher at the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life, which she cofounded, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the author of Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity and Branding in the Social Media Age (Yale University Press, 2013) and a coeditor of The SAGE Handbook of Social Media (Sage, 2019).
Annie Galvin, this season’s host, is the associate editor at Public Books and a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Virginia, and her academic and public writing has focused on contemporary global fiction, visual culture, gender and sexuality, and popular music.
In this two-part inquiry into what the internet is doing to societies, two leading scholars who study online media take a critical look at both the affordances and dangers of large platforms like Facebook, Google, and Reddit. In part one, Siva Vaidhyanathan breaks down the global power of Facebook: what it provides in a positive sense, but also how exactly it makes money off of its users, and how its design and business model pose a serious threat to democracy. Siva shares some ideas about what would need to change for Facebook to serve its users—and societies—better.
And in part two, Alice Marwick breaks down what actually happens when companies collect and sell the data that users feed them, why it often feels as though smartphones are listening to us, and what we need to know about how privacy violations impact people differently based on gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Finally, she explains what mainstream discussions of online “misinformation” get wrong, and what she has found based on her extensive research into the darkest corners of Reddit, 4Chan, and other extremist platforms.
View a transcript of the episode here.
Mentioned in this episode
- Siva’s book Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2018)
- Mad Men
- The 2016 electoral-college results
- The Cuyahoga River Fire of 1969 and the Clean Water Act of 1972
- Siva’s writing for The Guardian
- Siva’s “Public Thinker” interview in Public Books
- Natasha Schüll, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (2014)
- Fiona Vera-Gray
- Alice’s essay in Public Books, “Open Markets, Open Projects: Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness”
- Alice’s extensive research into many topics related to the internet, including:
- Alice’s article “How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined,” New York Review of Books (2014)
- Alice’s article “Scandal or Sex Crime? Gendered Privacy and the Celebrity Nude Photo Leaks,” Ethics and Information Technology (2017)
- Alice’s article, coauthored with Mary Madden, Michele Gilman, and Karen Levy, “Privacy, Poverty and Big Data: A Matrix of Vulnerabilities for Poor Americans,” Washington University Law Review (2017)
- Alice’s whitepaper, coauthored with Rebecca Lewis, “Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online,” Data & Society (2017)
- Acxiom, a third-party data broker
- New York City’s CompStat program (criminal-justice information system)
- The GDPR, the EU’s data-protection law
- The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988
- Nancy K. Baym, Personal Connections in the Digital Age (Polity, 2016).
- Sarah T. Roberts, Behind the Screen (Yale University Press, 2019).
- Zeynep Tufekci, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest (Yale University Press, 2017).
- José van Dijck, The Culture of Connectivity (Oxford University Press, 2013).
- Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Duke University Press, 2015).
- Virginia Eubanks, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (St. Martin’s, 2018).
- Michele E. Gilman, “The Class Differential in Privacy Law,” Brooklyn Law Review (2012).
- Sarah E. Igo, The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2018).