Jamie Bartlett (People vs Tech)

Digital communication is changing the very nature of how we engage with political ideas and how we understand ourselves as political actors.
Just as Netflix and YouTube replaced traditional mass-audience television with an increasingly personalised choice, so total connection and information overload offers up an infinite array of possible political options. The result is a fragmentation of singular, stable identities – like membership of a political party – and its replacement by ever-smaller units of like-minded people.
Online, anyone can find any type of community they wish (or invent their own), and with it, thousands of like-minded people with whom they can mobilise. Anyone who is upset can now automatically, sometimes algorithmically, find other people that are similarly upset. Sociologists call this ‘homophily’, political theorists call it ‘identity politics’ and common wisdom says ‘birds of a feather flock together’. I’m calling it re-tribalisation. There is a very natural and well-documented tendency for humans to flock together – but the key thing is that the more possible connections, the greater the opportunities to cluster with ever more refined and precise groups.

1 thought on “Jamie Bartlett (People vs Tech)

  1. shinichi Post author

    The People Vs Tech: How the Internet Is Killing Democracy (and How We Save It)

    by Jamie Bartlett


    The internet was meant to set us free.

    Tech has radically changed the way we live our lives. But have we unwittingly handed too much away to shadowy powers behind a wall of code, all manipulated by a handful of Silicon Valley utopians, ad men, and venture capitalists? And, in light of recent data breach scandals around companies like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, what does that mean for democracy, our delicately balanced system of government that was created long before big data, total information and artificial intelligence? In this urgent polemic, Jamie Bartlett argues that through our unquestioning embrace of big tech, the building blocks of democracy are slowly being removed. The middle class is being eroded, sovereign authority and civil society is weakened, and we citizens are losing our critical faculties, maybe even our free will.

    The People Vs Tech is an enthralling account of how our fragile political system is being threatened by the digital revolution. Bartlett explains that by upholding six key pillars of democracy, we can save it before it is too late. We need to become active citizens; uphold a shared democratic culture; protect free elections; promote equality; safeguard competitive and civic freedoms; and trust in a sovereign authority. This essential book shows that the stakes couldn’t be higher and that, unless we radically alter our course, democracy will join feudalism, supreme monarchies and communism as just another political experiment that quietly disappeared.


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