Cass R. Sunstein
Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media
This event includes a book signing
April 12, 2017
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store and Mass Humanities welcome Harvard Law School's CASS R. SUNSTEIN, the New York Times–bestselling author of Republic.com and The World According to Star Wars, for a discussion of his latest book, #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media.
As the Internet grows more sophisticated, it is creating new threats to democracy. Social media companies such as Facebook can sort us ever more efficiently into groups of the like-minded, creating echo chambers that amplify our views. It's no accident that on some occasions, people of different political views cannot even understand each other. It's also no surprise that terrorist groups have been able to exploit social media to deadly effect.
Welcome to the age of #Republic.
In this revealing book, Cass Sunstein shows how today's Internet is driving political fragmentation, polarization, and even extremism—and what can be done about it.
Thoroughly rethinking the critical relationship between democracy and the Internet, Sunstein describes how the online world creates "cybercascades," exploits "confirmation bias," and assists "polarization entrepreneurs." And he explains why online fragmentation endangers the shared conversations, experiences, and understandings that are the lifeblood of democracy.
In response, Sunstein proposes practical and legal changes to make the Internet friendlier to democratic deliberation. These changes would get us out of our information cocoons by increasing the frequency of unchosen, unplanned encounters and exposing us to people, places, things, and ideas that we would never have picked for our Twitter feed.
#Republic need not be an ironic term. As Sunstein shows, it can be a rallying cry for the kind of democracy that citizens of diverse societies most need.
"I . . . found myself shocked at how relevant Sunstein's account was to my own life and the ways I seek out and encounter information, which is in a way the value of the book—it gets you to reflect on the role of your information habits on your view of the world around you. And if you want to know how important that is, well, you should read Sunstein's book." —Annie Coreno, Publishers Weekly staff pick
"America's leading legal academic gives us a way to address democracy's leading challenge--preserving a public informed enough to govern itself. Drawing on an incredible range of scholarship and experience, this book could not be more timely. Or urgently needed." —Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.
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