In the essay The Fragmentation of Truth danah boyd makes the following important point: To combat increasing polarisation in our society, we need to rely on organisations that actively and intentionally let people with fundamental differences work alongside one another.
Boyd mentions the military as an example of an organisation that brings together people from different social backgrounds and political views to work on a common goal. To “intentionally bridge gaps in the social graph, to intentionally connect people and communities.”
I see schools and universities as another major power to combat polarisation in our society. Our university brings together people from different backgrounds, politcal views and cultures. Creating a sense of common purpose and a sense of a university community is important to fight polarisation and populism in our society.
That’s why our campus, our study associations, our sport, cultural and other student associations, are so important. That’s also why we need democratic institutions and self-government. They do not only shape our university now, they shape our future society.
We need to work harder to shape our universty as a community. If international students feel disconnected, then we completely failed as a university, no matter how excellent our educational programs are. This U-Today story, International bachelors: psychological and social problems, breaks my heart: (“One in three non-European bachelors had study problems in the previous academic year due to psychological, medical or social circumstances.”)
Danah boyd discusses in depth how platforms like Youtube and Facebook harm our society; how they directly threaten the important role that schools and universities play in creating a peaceful society. From this view point it is clear: Youtube should not be the primary channel for our online lectures; Facebook should not be the primary channel for our events.
Finally, services like search engines may be harmful, however well-intended and well-implemented. I find this hard to say as an Information Retrieval researcher, but search is easily manipulated, and you might not want powerful search in some applications. Boyd’s concept of ‘data voids’ is really insightful. Maybe we should teach students about search engine optimization in our courses too… #FIR