Upcoming Events

Civic Media Lunch: Andrew Keen, "The Internet Is Not the Answer"

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 12:00pm

MIT Center for Civic Media

RSVPs are now closed.

Now that the World Wide Web has been with us for twenty-five years, no one can doubt that it has transformed the world forever. But, in The Internet Is Not the Answer (Atlantic Monthly Press; January 6, 2015), Andrew Keen argues that on balance the web has done more harm than good except for a tiny group of young, privileged, white male Silicon Valley multi-millionaires.

Rather than making us wealthier, he writes, the unregulated digital economy is slowly making us all poorer. Rather than generating jobs, it is contributing significantly to rising unemployment. Rather than fostering equality, it is creating a chasm between rich and poor. Rather than holding our rulers to account, it is turning the world into a brightly lit glass cage in which everything is recorded and privacy no longer exists. Rather than promoting democracy, it is empowering mob rule. And rather than fostering a new renaissance, it is encouraging a culture of distraction, vulgarity, and narcissism.

How did we get here? Keen reminds us of the innocent beginnings of the Internet as he traces its evolution from World War II to the Cold War and then to the early nineties when Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web began its remarkable rise. It was then that the U.S. government handed over the publicly funded network to the commercial forces of start-ups like Netscape & Yahoo. The turning point was the meteoric rise of multibillion dollar Web 2.0 companies like Google and Facebook, which set in motion an increasingly exploitative and monopolistic Internet economy that in no way resembles the values the World Wide Web was founded upon.

By 2039, almost everyone alive will be online. Before it’s too late, it’s up to us to stop the corruption of the Internet and return it to its founding principles to foster creativity, self-expression, small business and personal freedom. What we have now, Keen writes, is a “top down winner takes all economy run by a plutocracy of lords and masters.” What we need, he explains, is a networked society that enriches citizenship, not consumption.

Andrew Keen is an entrepreneur who founded Audiocafe.com in 1995 and built it into a popular first generation Internet company. He is the executive director of the Silicon Valley salon FutureCast, the host of the Techonomy interview show "Keen On", a columnist for CNN and he has appeared on CNN, NPR and “Colbert Report.” He has spoken at LeWeb, DLD, Disrupt, Next Web and TEDx. His books include Digital Vertigo and the Cult of the Amateur, which has been published in 17 different languages.

Civic Media Lunch: Carl Malamud, "Yo! Your Honor!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 12:00pm to 2:00pm

MIT Center for Civic Media

RSVP required below. Co-hosted by Deb Roy/Laboratory for Social Machines.

Carl Malamud will discuss the Yo.YourHonor.Org campaign to make our nation’s federal judiciary more readily accessible to people. The Public Access to Electronic Court Records (PACER) system charges $0.10/page to access court dockets, opinions, briefs, and orders, a price that makes access to justice a luxury only accessible to professional lawyers. Carl has been working to free this system since 2008, when a group of volunteers including Aaron Swartz worked to download 20 million pages of PACER documents and performed a comprehensive audit to alert judges to blatant privacy problems infesting their database.

Carl Malamud runs Public.Resource.Org, a nonprofit that has helped make numerous government databases available to the public. In a prior life, he ran the first radio station on the Internet and also did a brief stint at the Media Lab as visiting faculty.

Civic Media Lunch: Joseph Reagle, "Comment's Mysteries"

Thursday, May 7, 2015 - 12:00pm

MIT Center for Civic Media

In his new book Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web (MIT Press, 2015) Joseph Reagle visits communities of Amazon reviewers, fan fiction authors, online learners, scammers, freethinkers, and mean kids. He shows how comment can inform (through reviews), improve (through feedback), manipulate (through fakery), alienate (through trolling and hate), shape (through social comparison), and perplex us. While we are counseled to “avoid the comments,” Reagle argues that reading the comments permits us to ask important questions about human nature and social behavior. In this talk, he will reflect on four of those questions. What’s behind the boom and bust cycle of blog, comment, and community platforms? Second, can we trust online reviews? Third, why are comments often so hostile, sexist, and racist? And finally, how can we make sense of the product review: “saved my son’s life: 4/5 stars”?

Joseph Reagle is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern and a faculty associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. He taught and received his Ph.D. at NYU’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. As a Research Engineer at MIT he served as an author and working group chair within the IETF and W3C on topics including digital security, privacy, and Internet policy. His current interests include geek feminism and online culture.