Cultural historian and media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan delivers COLA's Holden Lecture

Tuesday, November 6, 2018
photo of Siva Vaidhyanathan

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Courtesy photo.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia, will deliver the College of Liberal Arts John T. Holden Lecture, "Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy," on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. in 210 Hamilton Smith Hall on UNH’s Durham campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

As a cultural historian and media scholar, Vaidhyanathan examines the intersections between technical systems and social life. He has interrogated the ways copyright laws shape opportunities for creativity and explored the implications of Google’s considerable cultural influence. In his talk, Vaidhyanathan will turn his attention to one of the world’s most influential digital platforms. At a moment when new concerns about fake news, foreign election meddling, security breaches and privacy failures seem to arise daily, Vaidhyanathan takes a step back from the frenetic news cycle to examine how Facebook, which promises to bring us together, has spent the last decade pushing us further apart. Vaidhyanathan asks us to look beyond the likes and comments to consider a broader set of social questions. If Mark Zuckerberg’s perspective on civil discourse had been rooted in a liberal arts education, might that have changed the website he built in his college dorm? Can Facebook play a positive role in developing nations? What are the ethical obligations of a private social media company? And, ultimately, can Facebook be fixed?  

Vaidhyanathan is the author of the book “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy” and “The Googlization of Everything — and Why We Should Worry,” among other books. He directs the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, which produces a television show, a radio program, several podcasts and the Virginia Quarterly Review magazine. He has appeared in an episode of “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart to discuss early social network services and in several documentary films, including “Terms and Conditions May Apply,” “Inside the Mind of Google” and “Freedom of Expression.” Vaidhyanathan played a prominent role in the higher education documentary, “Starving the Beast.” He has written for many periodicals, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, Bloomberg View, and Washington Post. He is a frequent contributor to public radio programs, and he has appeared on news programs on BBC, CNN, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC and ABC.

The Holden Lecture is supported by the John T. Holden Memorial Fund in the College of Liberal Arts, which was established in 1995 in memory of John Holden, one of the university’s outstanding teachers of political science. The fund is dedicated to bringing signal scholars in the social sciences to UNH.