Reimagine the Internet
Detail of Civic Logic, by Fiammetta Ghedini, RIVA Illustrations

Reimagine the Internet

A virtual conference exploring what the internet could become over the next decade

Online

Reimagine the Internet is a virtual conference co-hosted by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the soon-to-be-launched Initiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In six sessions over five days, there will be more than a dozen speakers whose work hints at what the internet could become over the next decade.

As the internet has become an inescapable part of our commercial, social, and civic lives, the flaws and harms of the contemporary internet have become increasingly apparent. Despite rhetoric of decentralization, monopolies and points of control have arisen online, and powerful corporations have largely unregulated power over vast swaths of speech and commerce. The spaces these corporations have built may be having significant negative effects on our democracies, leading towards political polarization, the spread of mis/disinformation, and the growth of politically influential conspiracy theories.

While there is robust debate about what social ills can be traced to decisions made by commercial actors, the discussion over what’s to be done is often circumscribed. We debate how platforms like Facebook and YouTube should be regulated to be less harmful, but the conversation rarely extends to questions about how we could design new internet spaces that could lead towards healthier discussions, communities, and societies. “Reimagine the Internet” is an event designed to spark some of these conversations and to feature some of the most promising efforts in this direction.

Every panel except for the panels on Day 5 will consist of two 25-minute back-to-back talks followed by a joint discussion and Q&A with the audience.

All times are Eastern Daylight Time.

Mapping Social Media

An Illustrated Field Guide to Social Media

Fiammetta Ghedini: The making of An Illustrated Field Guide to Social Media

Schedule

  • Online

    Pioneering Alternative Models for Community on the Internet

    Knight Institute Visiting Research Scholar Ethan Zuckerman will speak about digital public infrastructure and his work to build social media spaces that are self-governing and civically focused. He will be joined by Katherine Maher who will talk about the ways in which Wikimedia has created an alternative model for online spaces and the ways in which it has fallen short. She will also discuss lessons the rest of the web might take from the Wikimedia experiment. 

    Introduction 

    Panelists 

      • Ethan Zuckerman, Initiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University
      • Katherine Maher, Wikimedia Foundation

    Moderator

  • Online

    Misinformation, Disinformation, and Media Literacy in a Less-Centralized Social Media Universe

    This panel will focus on mis/disinformation through the lens of media literacy, recognizing both that the current internet environment requires new approaches to reading, and that bad actors may have the most advanced understanding of the media ecosystem. Sociologist and media scholar, Francesca Tripodi studies the relationship between politically conservative communities and participatory media and will speak about her research on how textual practices of bible study communities inform the reading of “fake news.” Library scholar, blogger, and “curmudgeon-at-large” Barbara Fister will explain how traditional models of media literacy may not work to combat contemporary conspiracy theories, and how encouraging readers to search for their own facts may be aggravating the spread of misinformation.

    Panelists 

    Moderator

    • Ethan ZuckermanInitiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

  • Online

    Interoperability and Alternative Social Media

    This panel will focus on the interoperability of social networks, a popular prescription for weakening the power of politically influential sites like Facebook and Twitter. Author and internet activist Cory Doctorow will speak about “adversarial interoperability,” an “elegant tool” that allows technical innovators to build new tools that interoperate with existing systems whether the owners of those systems like it or not. Legal scholar and former associate general counsel for Google, Daphne Keller, will approach questions of interoperability and regulation from the perspective of user rights and benefits.

    Panelists

    Moderator

    • Alex Abdo, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

  • Online

    Lessons from Experiments in Local Community-Building

    This panel will focus on lessons learned from local communities and the implications of these lessons for online spaces. Sara Lomax-Reese is the CEO of WURD, a family-owned talk radio station in Philadelphia that serves that city’s Black community. Michael Wood-Lewis is co-founder of Front Porch Forum, an online community of mailing lists that serves every town in Vermont. Individually and in dialog, both will address lessons learned in building hyperlocal media and the ways in which online communities build trusted relationships.

    Panelists 

    Moderator

    • Ethan ZuckermanInitiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

    Deplatforming and Innovation

    This evening panel will showcase innovative community-building work done by groups often excluded by traditional social media platforms. Eliza Sorensen, cybersecurity expert and co-founder of Assembly Four, will discuss Switter, an alternative to Twitter built for sex workers as a response to deplatformings triggered by SESTA/FOSTA. Esra’a Al Shafei, Bahraini activist and entrepreneur, will discuss the challenges experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community in the Gulf States and the social media platform she’s built for queer Arab youth. 

    Panelists

    Moderator

    • Ethan ZuckermanInitiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

  • Online

    New Directions in Social Media Research

    The closing panel will launch a new e-book written by Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci and Ethan Zuckerman, with illustrations by Fiammetta Ghedini of RIVA Illustrations, An Illustrated Field Guide to Social Media. Rajendra-Nicolucci will speak about research conducted at the Knight Institute this past year on the “logics” that animate the diverse universe of social networks currently growing online.

    Panelists

    Moderator

    • Ethan ZuckermanInitiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

Speakers

Co-sponsored by 

Related Content