Antisocial Media by Siva Vaidhyanathan
How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy

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What’s needed, in other words, is political will, informed by a clear analysis of the social harm that this corporation is fostering. For this we need good, informed critiques such as this book. Given Facebook’s dominance, it will be a long haul...
-Guardian

Synopsis

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. Of course, none of that was part of the plan.

In Antisocial Media, Siva Vaidhyanathan explains how Facebook devolved from an innocent social site hacked together by Harvard students into a force that, while it may make personal life just a little more pleasurable, makes democracy a lot more challenging. It's an account of the hubris of good intentions, a missionary spirit, and an ideology that sees computer code as the universal solvent for all human problems. And it's an indictment of how "social media" has fostered the deterioration of democratic culture around the world, from facilitating Russian meddling in support of Trump's election to the exploitation of the platform by murderous authoritarians in Burma and the Philippines.

Facebook grew out of an ideological commitment to data-driven decision making and logical thinking. Its culture is explicitly tolerant of difference and dissent. Both its market orientation and its labor force are global. It preaches the power of connectivity to change lives for the better. Indeed, no company better represents the dream of a fully connected planet "sharing" words, ideas, and images, and no company has better leveraged those ideas into wealth and influence. Yet no company has contributed more to the global collapse of basic tenets of deliberation and democracy. Both authoritative and trenchant, Antisocial Media shows how Facebook's mission went so wrong.
 

About Siva Vaidhyanathan

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Siva Vaidhyanathan has written for The Nation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Dallas Morning News, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. His work has been profiled in The New York Times and on National Public Radio. Vaidhyanathan is a cultural historian and media studies scholar who has taught at the University of Texas, Wesleyan University, and New York University. He currently is associate professor of Culture and Communication at New York University.
 
Published May 15, 2018 by Oxford University Press. 288 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by John Naughton on Jun 25 2018

What’s needed, in other words, is political will, informed by a clear analysis of the social harm that this corporation is fostering. For this we need good, informed critiques such as this book. Given Facebook’s dominance, it will be a long haul...

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