By Rachel Metz, MIT Technology Review, 2/9/2018
In the past, if you wanted to change the world, you had to pass a law or start a war. Now you create a hashtag.
Ethan Zuckerman studies how people change the world, or attempt to, by using social media or other technological means. As director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab, he tries to help his students make sense of these issues. Zuckerman is also writing a book about civic engagement during a time when we have a lot less trust in institutions—government, businesses, banks, and so on.
Maybe that lack of trust is reasonable. After all, we’ve spent the last decade-plus slowly turning our data over to large corporations like Facebook and Google without quite realizing we were doing it.
Zuckerman knows what it’s like to build technology that pisses a lot of people off. Back in the 1990s he created what became one of the most hated objects on the internet: the pop-up ad. The aim was to show an ad on a web page without making it look as though the advertiser necessarily endorsed the content on the page. “Our intentions,” he later wrote in an apology to the internet at large, “were good.”
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