The Space of the World: Digital Platforms and the Prospects for Human Solidarity

In this seminar, Professor Nick Couldry will reflect on the global space of social communications and interaction that has been constructed over the past three decades through a commercialized internet. He will also consider the emergence of digital platforms whose business model depends on the extraction of data from their users and the shaping of user behaviour 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? This would be a major problem for humanity that social theory might play some role in deconstructing and potentially even solving by formulating alternatives. So how might we 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?


Nick Couldry, a sociologist of media and culture, is Professor of Media Communications and Social Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Since 2017, he is also a Faculty Associate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. He is the author or editor of fifteen books including The Mediated Construction of Reality (with Andreas Hepp, Polity, 2016), Media, Society, World: Social Theory and Digital Media Practice (Polity 2012) and Why Voice Matters (Sage 2010). His latest books are The Costs of Connection: How Data is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating Life for Capitalism (with Ulises Mejias: Stanford UP, 2019), Media: Why It Matters (Polity: 2019) and Media, Voice, Space and Power: Essays of Refraction (Routledge 2021). Nick is also the co-founder of the Tierra Común network of scholars and activists and of the European Media Salon.