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Om författaren

Siva Vaidhyanathan is currently director of the undergraduate program in communication studies in the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University.
Foto taget av: Siva with Boing Boing, NYU 2006, photo by Cory Doctorow

Verk av Siva Vaidhyanathan


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It didn’t occur to me in the early 1980’s when I was in business school doing an MBA that an intellectual battle was brewing between the profit maximizers and those who believed corporations owed a social responsibility to its stakeholders.

The old orthodoxy, championed by Milton Friedman, said that corporations were their most helpful when they pursued profit to the exclusion of everything else.

The new orthodoxy, developed by Edward Freeman, said that corporations had a social responsibility to its stakeholders, a term I remember learning about that time in business school.

Funny, I don’t recall any actual debate on the subject in the business school itself. But of course business school is more like a technical college than an Athenian school on deep moral and ethical concerns. Or at least it was then.

It seems the social responsibility folks got a little carried away in the US, with some corporations taking sides on the abortion debate and refused to fund public healthcare that had any relation to medical abortion or family planning for that matter.

That is how they interpreted their social responsibility.

Today we have a new debate on the social responsibility of tech firms like facebook, Twitter, and YouTube toward free speech in the US and elsewhere. The European Union now has strict regulations on managing the privacy of data collected by these firms and stiff fines for non-compliance.

In “Antisocial Media” Siva Vaidhyanathan argues that argues that US regulators need to get on board quickly. Since this book was published three years ago the chorus has only grown louder.

And as with other areas when business gets involved in social responsibility — or social engineering as some call it — there will be plenty of controversy.

When Twitter banned Donald Trump from the airwaves for ostensibly fomenting rebellion, Conservatives complained that Twitter had breached Donald Trump’s freedom of speech, notwithstanding the fact that the First Amendment of the US Constitution does not include protecting lunatics on social media. It’s a wholly private affair.

(You can tell that times have changed when getting banned from social media is a fate worse than impeachment.)

In the US, one always has to take the Conservatives with a grain of salt. They want the long hand of government out of the marketplace until it affects their sacred cows: free speech, abortion, etc., etc.

Which leads to ask the question: what exactly do Conservatives believe in? No Federal Government? States rights/government but not Federal Government? Libertarian ideals a la Peter Thiel? A “thought police”?

Why would people so enamoured with dismembering government put so much money into manipulating it for their own ends? And why wouldn’t the profit maximizers simply cede obvious public services to government that they really don’t want to manage themselves?

The answer is pretty obvious: pouring money into the political system helps the profit maximizers protect their interests. For them it’s just business.

It’s no wonder that some on the left confuse “conservative” and “capitalist” with “hypocrites.”

Conservatism is in a muddle.

And for those us expecting business to show more social responsibility, be careful what you wish for.
… (mer)
MylesKesten | 3 andra recensioner | Jan 23, 2024 |
Four stars not because the writing is especially good, but because I think the content is pretty important. Not just for librarians, but for anyone who uses the internet, really. The Goodreads synopsis describes it as a "guide to one of the most important cultural and economic battlegrounds" — the battleground in question being the internet. I can't say I agree with everything he says, but it did get me to think about the nature of the Internet and creativity and control in different ways. The stuff on Napster seems dated now, so I skipped over those parts, but yeah, totally recommend reading it.… (mer)
hms_ | 7 andra recensioner | Nov 22, 2022 |
A highly readable, obviously relevant, critical examination of the deleterious effects Facebook has had on our lives, social structures, polis, and culture. This is a scholarly book (which is a good thing), so, Vaidhyanathan draws connection to Neil Postman's work as well as other media and communication scholars. But as scholarly and informed as the book is, Vaidhyanathan does not mince words when exposing the Facebook effects. He also broadens the discussion under Postman's technopoly framework where social issues are depoliticized and treated as technical issues. Alas, there is no salvation by algorithm (which we should know by now since there is already substantial literature on this). So, yes, this is a pretty pessimistic account Facebook cannot be "reformed" and its founder still gets it wrong. In the end, Vaidhyanathan offers a few prescriptions that might have a better chance of happening outside the US, considering our current political climate, in part generated and amplified by Facebook.
With this book and others (I'm thinking Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil or Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest by Zeynep Tufekci), we are definitely leaving the era of utopian pronouncements on information wanting to be free and disruptive innovation and entering a bleaker (but more realistic) era of social media scholarship.
Highly recommended.
… (mer)
SocProf9740 | 3 andra recensioner | Jul 11, 2021 |
This dude is extremely narcissistic and writes in an agitated black and white manner, like a true partisan. In addition, most of the book is filled with stories about himself, none of which are very interesting. The book has a ton of interesting material. However, I keep not being able to read it due to the anger, and the narcissism.

Good bits: reading about the history of "media ecology" was interesting. Reading the notes at the end has been fruitful because Siva has for sure done his research.

I can't help comparing it to the last book I read, "Don't even think about it" by George Marshall about the reasons we can't make movement on climate change. It was *excellent*. The difference was that George Marshall kept the politics to a chapter at the end, and spent the rest of the book delivering on well defined tidbits to build to his point in a rational, calm manner. This actually let him talk to people who's views are different from his.
… (mer)
4dahalibut | 3 andra recensioner | Dec 13, 2020 |


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