We’re using digital polarization as a catch-all term for a number of different trends that we are observing on the web.
In certain contexts, each of these things can be valuable. We like seeing news from people like us, even if that restricts our worldview a bit. The line between “fake news” and “minority viewpoint” is not always clear-cut. Bad behavior on the web sometimes need to be called out, and citizens have the right to call powerful people to account. State-sponsored hacking can be used to silence, manipulate, or punish political opponents, but may occasionally uncover important information the public deserves to know.
What we want to look at in this project, both through in-classroom and out-of-classroom activities, are three questions:
We want to stress that this is a curriculum of questions, not answers. We’re hoping, for example, that students can also look into issues such as how calls for civility can lead to the “tone-policing” activist communities feel derail discussions at the same time that that students investigate how aggressively argumentative online cultures may discourage participation by certain demographic subgroups.
In the process, we are hoping our students obtain a deeper understanding of how web technologies shape their social and political environments, and learn that taking an active and critical stance toward these technologies can improve our society as a whole.