Guest Speaker Professor Seth Lazar from Australian National University will give his talk on Friday, January 20, at 3:00pm in DeBartolo Hall, room 138.
Talk Title: Communicative Justice and the Distribution of Attention
Abstract: From misinformation to affective polarisation, radicalisation to bots, the pathologies of the digital public sphere are by now well-known. Scholars, technologists and regulators have advanced many interventions aimed at curing these ailments. They have spent less time articulating just what we value in the digital public sphere, and how the nature of our goals conditions the means that can be used to achieve them. Political philosophy has historically given free expression this role, arguing that a healthy public sphere just is what emerges spontaneously from the provision of background conditions such as (perhaps adequately resourced) rights to free speech. But this recipe is now self-evidently inadequate: overwrought protections for expression are themselves to blame for the internet's pathologies. In this lecture I argue that, in governing the digital public sphere, algorithmic intermediaries shape not only expression but communication. Rather than just enforcing extrinsic parameters for permissible speech, they must also exercise intermediary power in choosing what to amplify and what to reduce, what kinds of communication to enable and encourage, and what to disable or frustrate. In redesigning platform architectures and recommender systems to shape communication and distribute attention in the digital public sphere, we should be guided by a theory of communicative justice. This lecture starts to build such a theory.