The University of Massachusetts Amherst

How to Fix Social Media…and Civic Life, and Everything Else

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - 4:00pm to Thursday, March 4, 2021 - 4:00pm

Join us for a conversation with Ethan Zuckerman in two parts. Co-presented by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) and the College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS). 

Losing Trust, Taking Action

Tuesday, March 2, at 4:00 pm (EST)

This event is part of the Social Science Matters series and will be moderated by Jane Fountain, Distinguished Professor of Public Policy & Director of the National Center for Digital Government

Many advanced democracies are suffering from a crisis in trust: most citizens don't trust their governments to do the right thing. This is not just a crisis of confidence in government - citizens mistrust major institutions from the media to the health care system. This creates a series of challenges, from resistance to public health orders to a broad feeling of helplessness and inability to influence politics and the direction of society. Fortunately, there are strategies for social change that work even when trust in institutions is very low, which include using less-familiar levers of social change. This talk explores people making change from within and outside of institutions using strategies that change public opinion and technical architectures as well as laws. 

Fixing Social Media 

Thursday, March 4, at 4:00 pm (EST) 

This event is part of the Computing & Social Justice series and will be moderated by Laura Haas, Dean of the College of Information and Computer Sciences 

Social networks like Facebook are an institution that have lost public trust over the past decade as their importance and influence has become increasingly clear. This loss of confidence presents an opportunity: instead of aspiring to fix social networks, we can imagine and build new tools that support our ability to be good neighbors and good citizens. What could social networks look like if their goal was not maximizing shareholder profit, but seek to strengthen our democracies. This talk explores the idea of software designed around civic values and seeks to make social change through creating publicly-funded social media. 

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Ethan ZuckermanEthan Zuckerman is associate professor of public policy, information and communication at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and director of the Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure. His research focuses on the use of media as a tool for social change, the use of new media technologies by activists and alternative business and governance models for the internet. He is the author of Mistrust: How Losing Trust in Institutions Provides Tools to Transform Them (2020) and Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection (2013). With Rebecca MacKinnon, Zuckerman co-founded the international blogging community Global Voices. It showcases news and opinions from citizen media in more than 150 nations and 30 languages, publishing editions in 20 languages. Previously, Zuckerman directed the Center for Civic Media at MIT and taught at the MIT Media Lab. In 2000, Zuckerman founded Geekcorps, a technology volunteer organization that sends IT specialists to work on projects in developing nations, with a focus on West Africa. Previously, he helped found Tripod.com, one of the web's first "personal publishing" sites. He and his family live in Berkshire County in western Massachusetts.