This event will be held off-site at Common House (206 West Market Street).
Join us for the release of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s book Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy. A signing will follow.
If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energize hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine respectable journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook. Of course, none of that was part of the plan.
In Antisocial Media, Siva Vaidhyanathan explains how Facebook devolved from an innocent social site hacked together by Harvard students into a force that, while it may make personal life just a little more pleasurable, makes democracy a lot more challenging. It’s an account of the hubris of good intentions, a missionary spirit, and an ideology that sees computer code as the universal solvent for all human problems. And it’s an indictment of how “social media” has fostered the deterioration of democratic culture around the world, from facilitating Russian meddling in support of Trump’s election to the exploitation of the platform by murderous authoritarians in Burma and the Philippines.
"Hello, reader. Do you use Facebook? Do you see it more times in a given day than you, say, drink a glass of water? If so, I suggest you find out from Siva Vaidhyanathan to what it is that you've given not only yourself, but also your crucial little portion of our world. He's the one who can tell you."
Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude
Siva Vaidhyanathan is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (2018), Intellectual Property: A Very Short Introduction (2017), The Googlization of Everything—and Why We Should Worry (2011), The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash between Freedom and Control is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System (2004), and Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity (2001). He also co-edited (with Carolyn Thomas) the collection Rewiring the Nation: The Place of Technology in American Studies (2007).
Vaidhyanathan has written for many periodicals, including The New York Times Op-Ed page, Bloomberg View, American Scholar, Dissent, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times Magazine, Slate.com, BookForum, Columbia Journalism Review, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Esquire.com, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Times Book Review, and The Nation. He is a frequent contributor to public radio programs, and he has appeared on news programs on the BBC, CNN, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, ABC, and on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. In 2016 he was portrayed in a play called Privacy at the Public Theatre in New York City.
After five years as a professional journalist, he earned a PhD in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Vaidhyanathan has also taught at Wesleyan University, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Columbia University, New York University, McMaster University, and the University of Amsterdam. He is a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities and a Faculty Associate of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. He was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and resides in Charlottesville, Virginia.