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Media Democracy Social Change

Page history last edited by Chris Werry 7 years, 3 months ago



Gladwell, Shirky, Morozov


  • Have you ever used social media sites for political action? Do you know anyone who has?
  • Have you heard of any examples of social media being used for activism? How was it used?
    List any examples of “social media activism” you can think of


  • What do you know of the use of social media in the Arab spring? In Occupy Wall Street? In the presidential election (s)?

  • Do you think that new media technologies like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. enable people to engage in new, more powerful forms of activism than in the past?

  • Do you see social media changing politics? How? 





Supplementary Texts

  • Rosen, "The “Twitter Can’t Topple Dictators” Article" - about arguments attacking the idea that social media can play a key role in revolution and social change.
  • "What is the Online Public Sphere Good For?"  Matthew Hindman.  
    "Inclusiveness is precisely what the online public sphere lacks. Part of the problem is the extraordinary concentration of links and traffic online traffic. For example, several observers have suggested that a groupof “A-list” political bloggers attract disproportionate attention. I argue here that even the emergence of a blogging “A-list” barely scratches the surface of online inequality."



Discussion Questions



  1. On pages 3-4 Sunstein discusses the public forum doctrine. He uses this as a principle and an analogy. How does he use the public forum doctrine in his argument, and how persuasive do you find this?
  2. What do you think of the research he cites on polarization? (5-6)
  3. Why does he say group polarization occurs?
  4. Can you think of factors Sunstein does not consider re: why group polarization and extremism may be intensified online?
  5. On page 8 he mentions the importance of the “public sphere,” and contrasts consumer sovereignty with citizen sovereignty. Are you persuaded by this?
  6. On pages 11 – 13 he lays out his solutions. What do you think of them? Do you see any strengths and weaknesses? Is there anything you would add or change? How do they compare to Shirky's solutions?



Kidd - Are New Media  Democratic?

  1. What are the main claims made by those who argue that new media represents the dawn of a radically new, more democratic system? Can you think of any examples that support, illustrate, or challenge this account?
  2. What are the main critiques of this argument? Can you find examples that support, illustrate, or challenge this account?
  3. What qualities do you think might make a media system democratic? What democratic qualities would you like to see part of the media ecosystem? Another way of putting this - WHAT VALUES do we want our media system to embody and cultivate?
  4. Both Postman and Lasch claim that learning how to carefully pose and frame questions is a crucial intellectual skill. Try to come up with as many different/better ways of posing questions about new media and democracy. Spend a few minutes brainstorming, then discuss them in your group, and select the best.  For example, does the question need to be binary (yes/no democratic?) Do we need to "unpack" what we mean by new media? Are there other useful distinctions we could make?
  5. Can you think of other ways of framing the relationship between democracy and new media?





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