Whitney Phillips and Ryan Milner - Book talk: You are Here

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Phillips & Milner present their new book, You Are Here, that New Scientist calls "an invaluable guide to our problems around news, truth."

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How to understand a media environment in crisis, and how to make things better by approaching information ecologically.

Our media environment is in crisis. Polarization is rampant. Polluted information floods social media. Even our best efforts to help clean up can backfire, sending toxins roaring across the landscape. In You Are Here, Whitney Phillips and Ryan Milner offer strategies for navigating increasingly treacherous information flows. Using ecological metaphors, they emphasize how our individual me is entwined within a much larger we, and how everyone fits within an ever-shifting network map.

Phillips and Milner describe how our poisoned media landscape came into being, beginning with the Satanic Panics of the 1980s and 1990s—which, they say, exemplify “network climate change”—and proceeding through the emergence of trolling culture and the rise of the reactionary far right (as well as its amplification by journalists) during and after the 2016 election. They explore the history of conspiracy theories in the United States, focusing on those concerning the Deep State; explain why old media literacy solutions fail to solve new media literacy problems; and suggest how we can navigate the network crisis more thoughtfully, effectively, and ethically. We need a network ethics that looks beyond the messages and the messengers to investigate toxic information's downstream effects

Whitney Phillips is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University and the author of This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture (MIT Press).

Ryan M. Milner is Associate Professor of Communication at the College of Charleston and author of The World Made Meme: Public Conversations and Participatory Media (MIT Press).

The After Optimization Seminar Series is run by the Algorithmic Media Observatory and the Machine Agencies based out of the Speculative Life Cluster at the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University in Montreal.

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