Digital Platforms and the Prospects for Human Solidarity

On Thursday, 2 February 2023, Nick Couldry (Professor of Media Communications and Social Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science) delivered a lecture at the Dep. of Politics and International Studies entitled “The Space of the World: Digital Platforms and the Prospects for Human Solidarity in the 21st Century”.

Nick reflected on the global space of social communications and interaction that had been constructed over the past three decades through a commercialized internet and the emergence of digital platforms whose business model depended on the extraction of data from their users and the shaping of user behaviour in order to optimize user behaviour that will generate advertising value.

“What if those conditions – valid perhaps in their own commercial terms – have guaranteed a space of human interaction that is larger, more polarized, more intense, and more toxic than is compatible with human solidarity?”— Nick asked. This would be a major problem for humanity that social theory might play some role in deconstructing and potentially even solving, by formulating alternatives. Nick spoke to us about how we might imagine a different space of the world that would be less likely to be toxic, and more likely to generate the solidarity and effective cooperation that humanity needs if it is to have any chance of addressing its huge, shared challenges.