Watch the full video (above) of the special talk featuring Prof Langdon Winner and Ambassador Vijay K Nambiar as part of the ‘Metamorphoses-Talking Technology’ series. Metamorphoses is a modest effort to try and bridge the gap between digital technologies, which are transforming our lives, and our understanding of their multiple dimensions. The series is a joint initiative between NITI Aayog (the Government of India’s think tank), India International Centre (IIC) and Centre for Policy Research (CPR).
The talk aims to answer pertinent questions at a time when expectations that the Internet would provide a suitable place for the flourishing of democracy have encountered some grave setbacks. The rise of monopoly control within platforms of communication has greatly magnified the economic and political power of oligarchies. Techniques for harvesting personal data to fuel targeted 'computational propaganda' threaten to undermine the integrity of elections and to erode citizen confidence that their outcomes are fair. While both roots and possible remedies for these maladies exist within large institutions, the erosion of democracy may have origins closer to home – in the activities and experience of selfhood on the Net. After all, who are we on the Internet? Looking for connection and community, do we now encounter something entirely different?
Prof Langdon Winner is Thomas Phelan Chair of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York.
Ambassador Vijay K Nambiar is former UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on Myanmar.
Opening remarks were delivered by Air Marshal (Retd.) Naresh Verma, Director, IIC.