Engaging The Social Dilemma: Social Media and the Polarization of Politics and Pews

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Webinar Panel Discussion

Zac Karanovich, Boston College
Kristin Peterson, Boston College
Michael Serazio, Boston College

Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Time: 12 - 1pm EST

Please Click Here to Register for this Webinar

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The Social Dilemma Documentary Viewing on Zoom

Date: Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Time: 7:00pm to 8:45pm

As part of our panel discussion on Engaging The Social Dilemma: Social Media and the Polarization of Politics and Pews which will take place on Wednesday, April 21 from noon - 1pm, we are showing the Netflix documentary film The Social Dilemma for anyone who would like to watch it. RSVP here to watch the documentary.

The 2020 documentary, The Social Dilemma, unveils the ugly capacities of the very social media platforms many of us spend hours on each day. Economic interests have commodified our social media use, incentivizing greater monetization through advertisements and the implementation of advanced algorithms to ensure that use only increases. But additional time results in additional exposure to the abundant misinformation that floods the platforms. The combination of use, misuse, and the manipulation of use has led the world's societies, including our own, toward extreme polarization. After viewing the documentary--with one such opportunity hosted by the Boisi Center--join us for a panel further exploring the influence of social media as it leads to the greater polarization of our society, our politics, and our religion.

karanovich headshot

Zac Karanovich is a doctoral student in systematic theology. A proud Hoosier who hails from rural, west central Indiana, he studied and worked in Indianapolis for 13 years. In 2007, Zac received his B.A. in theology and philosophy from Marian College (now University) and worked in parish ministry and religious education. After receiving his law degree from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 2014, he practiced in public and nonprofit finance before moving to Boston to continue theological studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, where he received his M.T.S. in 2018. His research interests are in political and liberation theologies, race and bias, grace and conversion, spirituality and ecclesiology, and how all of these might aid in the understanding and transformation of his own context: rural, working class, white America.

Peterson headshot

Kristin Peterson is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, teaching courses related to the intersections of media and religion. She earned her PhD in media studies from the University of Colorado Boulder, where she was also a research fellow for the Center for Media, Religion and Culture. Her research focuses on religious expression in digital media, specifically examining how young people engage with online media sites, images, videos and creative projects as spaces to develop religious meaning. She is currently working on a book project on how digital media spaces facilitate intersectional feminist activism within Evangelical Christian and Muslim American communities. She has published articles and book chapters on Muslim Instagram influencers, the digital mourning after the murder of three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, hijab tutorial videos on YouTube, the Ms. Marvel comic series, and the Mipsterz fashion video.

Michael Serazio headshot

Michael Serazio is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Boston College. His research and teaching focuses on media production, advertising, popular culture, political communication, and new media. His latest book is The Power of Sports: Media and Spectacle in American Culture (available from NYU Press). A behind-the-scenes investigation that draws upon dozens of interviews with leaders and professionals in the media business, The Power of Sports provocatively analyzes how sports culture explains and reflects contemporary American life – from journalism to politics to commercialism to gender.  

Serazio received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, where he won the National Communication Association’s Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award. He also holds a B.A. in Communication from the University of San Francisco and an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University. A former staff writer for the Houston Press, an alternative newsweekly, his reporting was recognized as a finalist for the Livingston Awards and he has continued to write essays on media and culture for The AtlanticThe Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalThe New RepublicThe NationBloomberg, and Salon

·      Orlowski, Jeff. “Social Media Puts Us All in Our Own Truman Shows, Threatening Our Democracy (Guest Column).” The Hollywood Reporter. January 12, 2021. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/social-media-put-us-all-in-our-own-truman-shows-threatening-our-democracy-guest-column.

·      Naughton, John. “The Social Dilemma: a wake-up call for a world drunk on dopamine?” The Guardian. September 29, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/19/the-social-dilemma-a-wake-up-call-for-a-world-drunk-on-dopamine.

·      Pankova, Elizabeth. “The Social Dilemma and the Rise of the Clickbait Documentary: Why the Netflix movie falls short as a critique of Silicon Valley.” Critical Mass. https://newrepublic.com/article/159657/social-dilemma-rise-clickbait-documentary.

·      Newton, Casey. “What ‘The Social Dilemma’ misunderstands about social networks: The world is more complicated than filmmakers want to believe.” The Verge. September 16, 2020. https://www.theverge.com/interface/2020/9/16/21437942/social-dilemma-netflix-review-orlowski-sarah-zhang-memo-facebook-buzzfeed.

·      Lanier, Jaron. Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. New York: Picador, 2018.

·      Persily, Nathaniel and Joshua A. Tucker, editors. Social Media and Democracy: The State of the Field and Prospects for Reform. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.

·      Aral, Sinan. The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health—and How We Must Adapt. New York: Currency, 2020.

·      Singer, P.W. and Emerson T. Brooking. Like War: The Weaponization of Social Media. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2018.

In a recent interview with Deadline, the director of The Social Dilemma, Jeff Orlowski, reflects on the impact of social media on the January 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol. He challenged readers to “reject a culture” that leads to such atrocities, a culture built upon algorithms that push us farther apart.