Friday, January 15, 2021

#15 / Computational Politics


Sometimes, I write these blog posts mainly to alert anyone who might be reading them to some article, book, story, or poem that I think is worthwhile. For instance, back on Mother's Day, I recommended a story that will make you cry (that's my prediction) and that will likely stay with you forever. Click this link if you want to be reminded!

Today, I am recommending an article from 2014, by Zeynep Tufekci, who is pictured above. I have also linked to one of her related TED Talks at the bottom of this post - related, but not the same. I consider Tufekci to be a truly insightful commentator on issues involving politics and technology. As a final recommendation, if you'd like to go "all in" on Tufekci, the next link will take you to her periodic blog, Insight. That is recommended, too!

I teach a Capstone Thesis class at the University of California, Santa Cruz. My class is titled, "Privacy, Technology, And Freedom," and Tufekci's article, "Engineering the public: Big Data, surveillance and computational politics," is always an assigned reading. As the class discussed Tufekci's article most recently, I thought to myself that I should try to let others know about it. In my opinion, Tufekci brilliantly outlines how the accumulation of "big data" has generated "six dynamics" that are transforming our politics - and in very disturbing ways:

#1 - The rise of big data 
#2 - The shift from demographics to individualizd targeting 
#3 -  The opacity and power of computational modeling
#4 - The use of persuasive behavioral science 
#5 - Digital media enabling dynamic real-time experimentation 
#6 - Power brokers who own the data

The pathologies that were so evident in our last presidential election are all directly related to the changed political terrain that Tufekci discusses. We are going to have to figure out how to deal with the "dynamics" she has identified. We are going to have to think about it. 

One good way to start thinking about it is to read Tufekci's article

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