Machine Politics: The Rise of the Internet and a New Age of Authoritarianism

5 Mar 2020
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

470 Stephens Hall

Event Type

Fred Turner
Harry and Norman Chandler Professor of Communication at Stanford University

In 1989, as Tim Berners-Lee dreamed up the World Wide Web, a deep faith in the democratizing power of decentralized communication ruled American life. Even Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator of the Hollywood era, could be heard to proclaim that “The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the micro-chip.” Today of course, we know better. The question is, how did we go so far wrong? To try to answer that question, this talk returns to the 1940s and shows how our trust in decentralized communication was born in the fight against fascism during World War II. It then tracks that trust through the counterculture of the 1960s to the Silicon Valley of today. Along the way, it shows step-by-step how the twentieth-century American dream of a society of technology-equipped, expressive individuals became the foundation of today’s newly emboldened and highly individualized form of authoritarianism.

Fred Turner is Harry and Norman Chandler Professor of Communication at Stanford University. He is the author of several books, including the award-winning From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, and most recently The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties. Before coming to Stanford, Turner taught Communication at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He also worked as a journalist for ten years. He has written for newspapers and magazines ranging from the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine to Harper’s

This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  CSTMS

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