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Between the US Capitol Insurrection – broadcast and organized online – and Frances Haugen’s revelations about the inner workings of Facebook, 2021 was a rough year for social media. Many social media observers – including legislators concluded that tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were harming individuals and society and needed regulation. But there are others reimagining social media as a whole, proposing new architectures designed to address the shortcomings of existing platforms and encourage new forms of interaction online. This talk examines four different models for the future of social media, including blockchain-based web3 models and decentralized open source models, and the ideologies animating each vision of the future.
Ethan Zuckerman is an associate professor of public policy, communication, and information at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is also the director of the UMass Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure, focused on reimagining the internet as a tool for civic engagement.
Prior to coming to UMass, Zuckerman was at MIT, where he served as director of the Center for Civic Media and associate professor of practice in media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab. His research focuses on the use of media as a tool for social change, the role of technology in international development, and the use of new media technologies by activists. The author of Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection, he published a new book, Mistrust: Why Losing Faith in Institutions Provides the Tools to Transform Them (W.W. Norton), in 2021.
In 2005, Zuckerman co-founded Global Voices, which showcases news and opinions from citizen media in more than 150 nations and 30 languages. Through Global Voices, and as a researcher and fellow for eight years at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, he has led efforts to promote freedom of expression and fight censorship in online spaces.
In 1999, he founded Geekcorps, an international, nonprofit, volunteer organization that sent 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.
In addition to authoring numerous academic articles, Zuckerman is a frequent contributor to media outlets such as The Atlantic, Wired, and CNN. He received his bachelor’s degree from Williams College and, as a Fulbright scholar, studied at the University of Ghana at Legon.