Social Media Companies Aren’t Liberal or Conservative. They’re capitalist.

Facebook cares more about scalability—that is, the ability to serve billions of users with a minimum of human labor—than it does about making the right call in every case. It would rather get lots of things wrong, but do it with a veneer of consistency and neutrality, than entertain nuance or exercise human judgment. (It would also, in the long run, prefer to do it via machine-learning software, to keep…

Digital literacy is different from print literacy. How do we balance the trade-off?

My job includes teaching students to read long, complex texts (novels, play scripts, and academic texts.) My job also includes asking students to write researched essays that are longer documents than many of them at first seem comfortable reading. Years after they graduate, students often thank me for what I’ve taught them, and say the effort was all worth it. Buoyed by that feedback, it would be an easy thing for…

Russian trolls ‘spreading discord’ over vaccine safety online

The good news is that there are fewer Americans think vaccination is a government conspiracy than your social media stream makes it appear that there are. The bad news is that somewhere out there is an organization that believes it will benefit from you believing that more people doubt vaccinations than really do. “The vast majority of Americans believe vaccines are safe and effective, but looking at Twitter gives the…

Pioneering Harvard Blog Site Wrapping It Up

I still use blogs.setonhill.edu, which I started in 2003. Not for every class, but for most of my discussion-heavy in-person classes. Weblogs@Harvard, as it was then known, was considered pioneering. Facebook didn’t yet exist. Social media was in its infancy. And starting a blog usually required some knowledge of code. Harvard’s blogging platform, now known as blogs.harvard.edu, made it easy. The university was one of the first higher education institutions,…

14% of Americans [say that they] have changed their mind about an issue because of something they saw on social media

Young men are more than twice as likely than the general public to say they changed their mind on an issue because of social media. Americans who identify as Democrats, black, or Hispanic are also more likely than the general public to report change their minds because of social media. The survey seems to have asked people to report on their own behavior — it didn’t stick people in a…

Portrait of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, biting his lips as if pensive or nervous.

 The Expensive Education of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley

Because what he never managed to grok then was that the company he created was destined to become a template for all of humanity, the digital reflection of masses of people across the globe. Including — and especially — the bad ones. Was it because he was a computer major who left college early and did not attend enough humanities courses that might have alerted him to the uglier aspects…