ethan zuckerman – imaginary cosmopolitanism

ethan zuckerman

a first encounter with Ethan:

TedGlobal 2010, July: listening to global voices
imaginary cosmopolitanism
Sure, the web connects the globe, but most of us end up hearing mainly from people just like ourselves. Blogger and technologist Ethan Zuckerman wants to help share the stories of the whole wide world. He talks about clever strategies to open up your Twitter world and read the news in languages you don’t even know.
interesting problems of the world are global in scale and scope, they require global conversations to get to global solutions.
yahon – 150000 volunteers, translate 100 articles a day and put on line for free,
jon ley – if there’s one thing i can do is start translating so these people can communicate better.
400 mill internet users in china – more than anywhere
so where are the american translaters?
middle east editor for global voices
 – she has to try to get you out of your normal orbit.. she’s a dj, skilled human curator, make a selection and push people forward.
internet makes it easier for dj’s. people to tell you what to read, etc.
afrigadget blog – pretty much his fav blog
his blog
bridge figure – white african – he’s knows two worlds
ethan on twitter
ethan on voices
 After that.. hard to say his name without tagging on..
hospitality oikos cosmo
find/follow his work/insight/wisdom/vision:

his site:

ethan zuckermans site
from his about page:
I direct the Center for Civic Media at MIT, and teach at MIT’s Media Lab. I’m the author of “Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection”, published by W. W. Norton in June 2013. I’m the co-founder of global blogging community Global Voices, and I work with social change nonprofit organizations around the world. I’m an alumnus of the Berkman Center at Harvard, Geekcorps and Tripod. – See more at:

global voices site:

we have to figure out a way to rewire the systems we have

ways of creating serendipity

celebrate bridge figures

cultivate xenophiles

Ethan is on the board of directors for ushahidi
digging into more – global voices – thinking via this site
a few posts from the past….

4 questions about civic media:
moving to mit to seek answers
1) How do we map and understand media ecosystems?
2) How do we help marginal and rarely-heard voices find an audience?”
3) How do we encourage productive participation?
4) How do we help communities annotate physical spaces? How do we make civic maps?  

a video in his post.. pushing us past our sheltered thinking..


what a great video in Ethan’s latest post:
fighting the evil forces of apathy

The end result of the space:
connectivity and the membership policy is that many of Kenya’s best and brightest young geeks can be found at the iHub on any given day. This helps explain why there’s also a crowd of expats – the iHub has become a pilgrimage stop for people hoping to understand the future of information technology in Kenya, and in the developing world as a whole.

They’re separated physically, but Facebook – which most Kenyans access through their phones, allows them to stay in close touch. Daudi tells me aboutGhetto Radio, a station that’s built a youth audience around the idea of being an “underground” station… though it’s probably the most popular station for its target demographic. “They run polls on Facebook and get thousands of responses. Lots of the folks responding can’t actually hear the station.”

Given the richness of the conversation at the iHub, it’s not always the easiest place to get work done. Erik tells me he spends two days a week working from home in the hopes of getting grantwriting and other focused activity done. Limo Taboi is based in the quietest corner of iHub and exudes a sense of calm amd focus that creates a cone of silence around him and his laptop.

it’s exciting to think that there’s a movement in different corners of the continent to mobilize youth around the idea that they can and should have a voice in politics.

iHub makes sense because it’s the physical manifestation of the creative collaboration that took Ushahidi from idea to project to platform within months. I had to go to Nairobi before I really got it.


feb 26

Ethan Zuckerman is director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, and a principal research scientist at MIT’s Media Lab. He is the Keynote Speaker for the 2013 Digital Media & Learning Conference: “Democratic Futures: Mobilizing Voices, and Remixing Youth Participation.” His research focuses on the distribution of attention in mainstream and new media, the use of technology for international development, and the use of new media technologies by activists. With Rebecca MacKinnon, Ethan co-founded international blogging community Global Voices. Through Global Voices and through the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, where he served as a researcher and fellow for eight years, Ethan is active in efforts to promote freedom of expression and fight censorship in online spaces. You can follow his thoughts at and on Twitter at @EthanZ.


recent interview –


dml2013 keynote:

and his reflection of keynote...



But this tendency to flock may be keeping us from finding the information we need,” and the tools we’ve built for the Internet only enhance our flocking bias.

“Creativity is an import-export business,” he said, the result of a cross-pollination of ideas and cultures that compels people to reflect on their assumptions. Those who are open to diversity and cognitive border-crossings, explained Zuckerman, “are at high risk of having good ideas.”

Zuckerman believes that change is possible. “If we don’t like how the Internet works now, we can fix it.” He recommended, for example, his own Berkman project called Global Voices, which shares online content from around the world. “It’s incumbent on us not to be satisfied with our tools,” and to build new ones that correct for our blind spots, he said.

Citing an example from “Rewire,” Weinberger pointed to the urban planner Jane Jacobs, who championed a style of city design “to engineer encounters and engagement” in ways that promote diverse communities. “I certainly favor structuring serendipity,” said Weinberger.

and ahh. .. his book


book links to amazon

his talk at the Berkman center on Rewire:

23 min – how to build better tools for connecting

24 – not sure if i want my friends pre-filtering for me.. the tools of social search may be driving us into the same circles

26 – creative is an import/export business. thieves.

27:30 – how to take advantage of incredible cognitive diversity

28 – we could have an alternative:

a conversation of what we want

if we don’t like how the internet works – we can fix it

30 – how do you track your own behavior

we’ve gotten so good at tracking our bodies – but not our minds…

cognitive tracking

follow bias

41 – we live in an era where we don’t need to have close ties – as far as what used to force us to be close

44 – what does it mean to make diverse ties with others.. that let’s you care enough about them to tie you over

47 – what sort of ties do we need now?

53 – we don’t know what connects – we guess at what connects

59 – quality journalism is about engineering empathy – connecting with someone you wouldn’t ordinarily connect with

1:00 – david’s initial comment/sentiment – man…

1:06 – serendipity – ed to cultivate desire – other is something we do – interest – in things we had no idea we were interested in

1:08 – structured serendipity will just look like noise, unless something is mixed in – empathy not enough – has to have a quality of great journalism or art of ….. we need paul simon-ish bridge

1:09:45 – ethan – end of book – we can do many things for you – but we can’t create desire – curation/search/social – to perhaps serendipity – taking you somewhere out of what you know and what you’ve encountered..

[so – perhaps curiosity – in the city – as the day…?]

1:11:49 – perhaps it’s the word – engineering – that is tripping us up


connection (love) between Ethan and David is of great insight


notes from book:

kindle amazon of rewire

It is hardly possible to overstate the value in the present state of human improvement of placing human beings in contact with other persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. —John Stuart Mill

The 1979 revolution took intelligence agencies by surprise because it was born in mosques and homes, not in palaces or barracks.

Looking for secrets—the missing information in systems we understand—we can easily glide past mysteries, events that make sense only when we understand how systems have changed.

We all need ways to access perspectives from other parts of the world, to listen to opinions that diverge from our preconceptions, and to pay attention to the unexpected and unfamiliar

They didn’t pay attention to the story until it was so huge and in their face, they couldn’t ignore it anymore.

Our challenge is not access to information; it is the challenge of paying attention.

nationality: human

We must begin to understand ourselves not just as citizens of a state or a nation but also as citizens of the world

We are less likely to find our connections to the unfamiliar—the infectious and the inspirational—in the physical world. We will likely find them on the screen.

while one of the great promises of the Internet is that we might encounter anything online, in practice much of what we encounter comes from much closer to home.

The Internet will not magically turn us into digital cosmopolitans; if we want to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of connection, we have to take responsibility for shaping the tools we use to encounter the world.

Interviewed in 1912, the radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi declared, “The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous.

via @hrheingold

believing that people can use technology to build a world that’s more just, fair, and inclusive isn’t merely defensible. It’s practically a moral imperative.
If the global flow of atoms is constrained by trade restrictions and by taste, and the flow of people by employment opportunities and immigration laws, the flow of information is constrained by our interest and attention.
Tripod’s readers weren’t interested in the articles we’d carefully crafted for them. They were coming to explore thousands of topics we knew nothing about:

Being able to find exactly what you wanted to know invites you to question authority figures—editors, educators, doctors—who argue there are topics you need to know beyond those you want to explore.

global voices

We curate, searching through the vastness of participatory content to find the bits that illuminate issues, concerns, and lives in other parts of the world. We translate, opening a conversation beyond its linguistic borders. And we contextualize, explaining what events mean to people on the ground and what they might mean to you.

If we want digital connection to increase human connection, we need to experiment.

perhaps ai as augmenting interconnectedness

Xenophiles, lovers of the unfamiliar, are people who find inspiration and creative energy in the vast diversity of the world.

Granovetter speculates, “The more local bridges (per person?) in a community and the greater their degree, the more cohesive the community and the more capable of acting in consort.

Lots of friends who have access to the same information and opportunities are less helpful than a few friends who can connect you to people and ideas outside your ordinary orbit.

As we think about rewiring the Internet to encourage connection, we need to think about how to build spaces and institutions that help bridge figures and xenophiles.

more on matt

Matt recalled, “I was beginning to realize that dancing in front of exotic backgrounds was a thin gimmick. I’d found what I should’ve been doing all along. I should have been dancing with other people.

Cities provide an infrastructure that should enable serendipity.

in the city.. as the day.. 2 convers.. as infra

urban planner David Walters observes, they’re designed to help individuals linger and mix: “Casual encounters in shared spaces are the heart of community life, and if urban spaces are poorly designed, people will hurry through them as quickly as possible.

to minimize isolation. Walkable cities make it harder for you to isolate yourself in your home or your car, and easier to interact in public spaces. In the process, they present residents with a trade-off—it’s convenient to be able to park your car outside your home, but walkable cities are suspicious of too much convenience.

her celebration of street life, “the ballet of the good city sidewalk,” Jacobs emphasizes the importance of using the same spaces for diverse purposes.

bubbles are comfortable, comforting, and convenient; they give us a great deal of control and insulate us from surprise. They’re cars, not public transit or busy sidewalks.

Rather than calculating the shortest path between two points, as Google Maps usually does, Serendipitor prescribes a meandering path that will get you to your destination at the appointed time, but via a route that no human would ever rationally select.

More an art piece than a practical application, Serendipitor is a useful provocation that if we’ve forgotten how to wander, we could always develop software to help us go astray.

One popular method for calculating this is a technique called “cosine similarity.

Page tells us, “Even if we were to accept the claim that IQ tests, Scholastic Aptitude Tests scores, and college grades predict individual problem-solving ability, they may not be as important in determining a person’s potential contribution as a problem solver as would be measures of how differently that person thinks.

Primary and secondary schools might focus on ways that students could connect with different groups of people in their local communities, embracing students and community members who are best positioned to bridge and translate between cultures and to encourage xenophilia as a core skill. Schools would be smart to mainstream study abroad programs.

There’s an incredible opportunity to create tools that help people move beyond search and social modes of discovery and increase the chances of serendipity.

perhaps ai as augmenting interconnectedness.. as it could be..


recommended for – rewiring for interconnectedness


imaginary cosmo


oct 2013:

dabeli – journalism – giving people info – that they can’t do anything with – learned helplessness

pointalist approach – how can i help by giving a single loan of kiva, a version of citizenship

11:30 –

there’s a whole rhetoric around the idea that youth are disengaged that they’re not involved.. they’re not apathetic, actually they’re utterly desperate to have an impact. but they don’t think they’re going to have an impact through the institutions through which we believe they should have an impact.

this is where we need media to help.. say –  if you want to have an impact on society, we have to figure out a way for you to be involved.. – we’re going to match you to things you could do.

can’t keep giving out news where people can’t make an impact..

that’s an audience that we’re just losing as consumers of our publications, but we’re losing as participants of a civic diaologue

advocacy journalism – yes.. – all the time when we make a news value judgment


oct  2013:

ethan posst on activisim

This distaste for participation in dysfunctional political systems is easily misread as apathy, leading legislators and educators to declare “a crisis in civics” as young people participate in elections at a much lower rate than their parents. But that misses a key shift: digital natives are participating in civic life in ways where they feel they can have an impact and these points of impact are often outside government.

sound like Russell Brand‘s recent interview – esp in regard to voting….

not on ballot

No wonder it’s hard to get our heads around it. We’re moving from a vision of civics that’s party-based and partisan to one that’s personal and pointillist.


dec 2013:

ethan's lecutre at bellwether

Do the Facebook supporters of marriage equality imagine that their actions will affect Supreme Court deliberations? 

or do we question supreme court? could we not?

I want to offer a darker suggestion: given the level of disillusionment many Americans feel with the political process, perhaps we shouldn’t expect young people to get involved with traditional politics.

On the left, excitement about a presumably progressive African-American president has given way to deep frustration with rising inequality, an unregulated banking system, ongoing military engagements and a culture of pervasive surveillance that’s starting to look like a national post-traumatic stress reaction to the 9/11 attacks. On the right, a prolonged economic depression combined with shifting demographics suggests a government so out of touch with the concerns of “ordinary” Americans that we would be better off without it.

Here’s an ugly, but plausible, explanation for the shifting engagement in civics: It’s not that people aren’t interested in civics. They’re simply not interested in feeling ineffectual or helpless. 

I’ve taken to calling this new model of citizenship “participatory civics”. One of the characteristics of this version of civics is an interest – perhaps a need – for participants to see their impact on the issues they’re trying to influence. 

I’m not trying to argue for the superiority or inferiority of participatory civics. Instead, I’m trying to acknowledge that this type of civics is on the rise and to see whether we can have a debate about this changing space that doesn’t recapitulate the decade-long “bloggers versus journalists” debate.

We’re used to seeing activism and civics unfold in the sphere of law. One of the fascinating aspects of participatory civics is that it’s unfolding in other spheres as well. 

Zeynep Tufekçi has been trying to figure out why it’s so hard for these popular movements to sustain themselves and turn into effective political movements, observing that the Tahrir youth were pushed aside in the Egyptian polls by the Muslim Brotherhood (and later the army) and that the occupiers of Gezi Park have decamped and formed neighborhood fora that seem unlikely to pressure Erdogan or achieve their political goals. 

Tufekçi offers an analogy to explain what she thinks is going on. In the past decades, it’s become much easier to summit Mt. Everest – packaged trips promise to help non-elite climbers summit Everest supported by sherpas, oxygen, etc. While more people are summiting Everest, more are also dying – if something goes wrong, non-elite climbers are less able to rescue themselves and others on the mountain. In this analogy, social media is a sherpa, an oxygen tank for protest. In the past, bringing 50,000 people out for a protest required months or years of planning and negotiation between different interest groups. When those groups took to the streets, they represented the hard work necessary to build coalitions, and their presence was a signal to authorities that they faced well-organized, deep resistance. Gezi Park, Tukekçi argues, brought together a coalition that had no common issues other than frustration with Erdogan – nationalists, Kurds, Allawi, gay and lesbian Turks – and, because it brought them together so quickly and with little compromise, the coalition was unstable.

The problem of bringing protesters together into deliberation is a special case of a general problem: if civics is driven by passionate participation, how do we create a deliberative public space?

If I’m passionate about UN intervention in the Central African Republic and you’re concerned with legalizing raw milk sales in your town, we can both share our views and rally our forces, but it could be very challenging to get me to listen to you, or vice versa.

The HPA’s campaign, We Are the Districts, links the film to income inequality in America and in the world and invites fans to take arms against inequality in the ways Katniss Everdeen takes arms against a corrupt government. 


ethan on news cycle


and Sahar

sometimes the only thing we know how to do (ie: bring awareness) is the wrong thing to do..

what’s behind the story that makes us pay attention.. we wired to pay attention to stories – are we also wired to pay attention to things we can do something about.. yet – there aren’t always solutions..  

news worthiness

personal narrative


new category on global voices – good news

mr rogers quote – when you see something bad happen – look toward the helpers..  – can we make this more conscious in our reporting..



on Aaron


interview with Henry Jenkins on cosmopolitanism:

interview henry and ethan

Appiah, a Ghanaian-American philosopher, suggests that cosmopolitans recognize that there is more than one acceptable way to live in the world, and that we may have obligations to people who live in very different ways than we do.
Cosmopolitanism doesn’t demand that we accept all ways of living in the world as equally admirable – he works hard to draw a line between cosmopolitanism and moral relativism – but does demand that we steer away from a fundamentalist or nationalist response that sees our way as the only way and those who believe something different as inferior or unworthy of our consideration or aid.
A cosmopolitan approach offers us the encouragement to discover other ways of solving a problem while accepting the idea that we may choose to continue living in ways we have in the past. What we are not free to do is to dismiss other ways of living out of hand, or to fall back on a narrow, tribal definition of obligation. 
incomplete globalization…
I am deeply influenced by Lant Prichett’s arguments which make the case that increased migration would be the single biggest step taken towards economic development in poor nations. 
So “incomplete globalization” is both broken in some ways, and incomplete, though my focus is one the ways it is incomplete and imbalanced between globalization of atoms, people and bits. 
xenophiles & bridge figures..
I probably emphasize the function of the bridge figure more thoroughly in Rewire because it’s hard for me to imagine much global connection without bridging. But xenophiles – particularly xenophiles who wear their interests and passions on their sleeves, like Anthony Bourdain and his relentless search for interesting global food – are enormously important in promoting the possibility and importance of international connection. Not everyone can be a bridge figure, I argue – it’s an accident of circumstances as well as a choice of perspective and temperment – but xenophilia is a choice and one I hope more people will make. 
cognitive diversity..
This likely requires changing how we recruit talent, looking at broader pools of individuals with different paths towards qualification. 
like infinitely many different paths…
networked individualism via c dot app via the brain ness..
nov/dec 2013:
at the oxford internet institute lecture series
ethan at oxford internet
sign by protester – that is thanking facebook
slacktivism or ? – when liking facebook becomes our activism..? – [rushkoff – generation like]
these critiques often start from assumption of people are bad civic actors.. what if instead .. we start from the assumption that people are having a hard time figuring out how to be good civic actors…
putnam’s bowling alone feeding our thinking on slacktivism
do we just have the metrics wrong? ie: did you join a party, did you vote, ..
this is a really depressing time to work on civics…
may be moving into a space of monitorial (or whatever) – mostly the fact that models do change… ie: rather than being really bad at old civics.. we might be beginning to get really good at new civics..

new civics…

(not here to advocate for it.. just sharing what i’m seeing)
puts heavy weight on participation – to inscribe themselves on public and social processes – by media
ie: you don’t give to oxfam – you give to kiva.. donors choose.. kickstarter..
where for me it gets really worrisome – civic crowdfunding.. goes after projects that you really think government should be doing…
civics based on passion – can be double edged.. we could create crimes of passion
– – – –
  • thin(equality profile pic) to thick (occupy).. whether you use your head or use your feet
[thin isn’t inherently bad, some need to be thin, because some things you need everyone to be able to do]
  • instrumental (clearly defined theory of change – human rights) to voice (doesn’t necessarily have a clear theory of change – use where hard to exit).. 
dream – undocumented not by choice
self-deportation and assylum
mailpile – response to snowden
4 spheres – norms, markets, codes, laws
voice begets voice
may turn out to build movements
– – – – – –
really big problem – shirky – here comes everybody.. crazy easy to get groups together.. problem with mass movements.. don’t seem to get us there..
Zeynep – her everest analogy – now people up there w/no business being there.. perhaps bringing more and more movement and less and less change
– – – — –
how to have a conversation in the public sphere when we all come together with different passions/visions
can we have a debate.. can we have a public..
(lippman- public opinion) – no
(dewey– the public) – yes
how we do this in a world where everybody has power to build own movement/media.. best i’ve seen on this – interlocking public:
not sure i buy it – the pointillist public sphere.. if have wide enough view –  you see big picture – if you’re standing close – hard to get beyond single dot..
the only way this talk connects to rewire is that argument..
deeply worried about civics that lets each of us martial our own civics… then what..
at the end of the day – i don’t do a ton of research.. i do a lot of advisement
ie: andrew slack – hp alliance.. now doing hunger games – he knows full well this is as thin as it gets.. but i have 10’s of thousands of youth.. that want to do something.. how do we help them learn how to do civics..
adding thick to thin (mockingjay et al)
perhaps a better way to climb everest.. no prep/no training – way less danger..
do we create the depression by the taboo not to talk about it. by our constructs of earning a living et al..
aug 2014:
sept 2014 – bif10:
ethan on pop up
feb 2015 – hosting #netgain:
sermon by Ethan’s wife, Rachel, sept 2014:

there’s more that connects us than divides us. Imagine if we all woke up in the morning with the intention of strengthening what connects us, instead of digging in behind what divides us.


jan 2015 – honor every death

july 2015 – who benefits from doubt

It’s not necessary to persuade people that cigarettes are safe to smoke or that we can burn coal indefinitely without raising global temperatures – it’s enough to raise sufficient doubt to lead to paralysis.


Internet users who doubt whatever they see online are less likely to use social media to organize and topple those who are currently in power.

ie: noise to paralyze

It’s expensive to persuade someone to believe something that isn’t true. Persuading someone that _nothing_ is true, that every “fact” represents a hidden agenda, is a far more efficient way to paralyze citizens and keep them from acting. It’s a dark art, one with a long past in Russia and in the US, and one we’re now living with online.


Understanding mass shootings and gun violence as a public health issue: “Mass shootings and second-hand smoke”:

Original Tweet:

oct 2015
10/14/15 6:23 AM
Jonathan @zittrain on the Freedom to Innovate (#f2i)…
fitting while talking to self about on iodance and ps in the open ness
I asked Jonathan Zittrain to give an opening keynote on the Freedom to Innovate because he’s one of the world’s leading thinkers about technical, legal and normative barriers to innovation. His book, “The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It”, introduces the idea of generativity, the capacity of a system to enable users to invent and create new technologies.

As we head towards the Internet of Things, we’re going to fight over models for how objects talk to the internet. Will the internet of the Internet of Things be the real internet, where anything can talk to anything, and it’s up to the thing to figure out if it wants to listen. Or should it be a closed, corporate net where objects only talk to their vendors. We’ll end up resolving this against a backdrop of legal liability, a world in which things sometimes go feral. Who’s responsible when your Phillips tuneable bulb is reprogrammed to burn down your house? Amazon recently announced their platform for the internet of things, a framework that fills a genuine need, the ability to constrain what can talk to what. But Amazon is going to charge for this privilege, raising questions about whether we want to hand this responsibility to commercial entities.


When we think about the generative, blinking cursor, Zittrain tells us, MIT and other academic institutions created this environment and this paradigm. And universities have a huge role to play in defending and promoting freedom to tinker and freedom to innovate. “I feat that this mission has been forgotten, and that people like Peter Thiel, who are encouraging people to innovate outside the university, are helping this be forgotten.” We don’t want these institutions to be oracular, to predict the future of the devices we can use and how we interact with them. But we do want them to be “productively non-neutral.

weird on thiel ness.. outside ness..?

oct 2015
on future that is disruptive and just

Disrupters always like to see themselves as revolutionaries. But they can very quickly become the entrenched power.

In the late 1990s, no one in West Africa was sad to see state-owned monopoly phone companies disrupted by mobile phone providers. But now, more than 15 years later, those companies are some of the most powerful economic actors in many developing nations, and there’s lots of debate about whether their pricing and service is fair, or whether they might not need some disruption.


Let’s by all means look for ways to disrupt existing broken systems, but let’s not forget to ask who benefits and who is hurt by these disruptions. And while making change through innovation and technology is an exciting prospect, innovating by changing how people and technology interact is even more powerful.

A talk I gave earlier today at @datasociety – “Ben Franklin, The Post Office and the Digital Public Sphere”:…

franklin comes up w/a reform.. he says.. i don’t care what you’re printing.. i’m going to charge small fixed fee and deliver it.. a public sphere of printed letters..

a public sphere, a space for conversation about what the nation would and could be. …a distributed, participatory public sphere.

4 min – subsidies make private communication quite expensive and newspapers dirt cheap – by about 1820 – 95% of mail by weight is newspaper …doing austin kleon black out for cheaper mail… exchange copies for free.. taking wave of newspapers.. cutting and pasting and putting together own newspapers.. by 1830 – end up with 8700 post offices… 3/4 of civilian employees work for po…  this is the history u.s. is coming out of..

7 min – how do we establish a public sphere… meant to be a govt where you can have broader range of citizens trying to be involved in public convo….

we talk a lot about ways we set up rep democracy.. we don’t talk nearly enough about media environment.. one that is explicitly built to have this convo about what is public sphere and what it should look like…

9 min – if going to talk about what press does.. what it’s for.. good to look at history… some challenges today are novel.. some not so much..

i often talk about privatized public sphere.. but has been privatized since day 1..  most of text was ad… basically commercial vehicles w/ small amount of content to keep people reading…

other pieces w/less history behind it.. this idea that this public sphere run by private.. wholly unregulated… that’s fairly new… we have not been historically shy about how we want press to be… what’s new.. is thinking regulation of press is violation of 1st amendment.. and going to be anti innovation

i don’t think this rise in inclusivity (from internet) … is completely new .. ie: caution money.. against possibility of future fines.. unless wealthy and well connected.. could not print… ordinary people access to media.. is a shift we’ve seen before..

info explosion is a really old concept… ie: 1971 simon on xerox machine.. getting in way of attention.. even in 1700s… w/possibility of more newspapers than you can read…and there fore gate keeping..

14 min – ideological isolation…   not new.. what may be diff is lack of transparency.. then you knew what echo chamber you were entering into… today.. people don’t understand what algo’s may be making them see.. that may be new..

16 min – what are the precursors to an open society… 1\ free uncensored aggressive press…

18 min – netgain – curious in internet of public sphere that neither corps or govt could take on.. so launched netgain challenge… past summer had a conf.. around creating a pipeline of tech talent into public interest careers… we have a very large range of issues to work on ie: access to info, open ness of spaces…  what sort of digital public sphere do we want…

what we don’t know what.. if anything we need to be doing toward shaping it.. for what it should do…

20 min – i’m a really big fan of the null hypothesis.. the idea that these algo’s maybe having a lot less influence than a lot of other factors out there.. in rewire i make argument that there is a filter bubble.. but tiny.. compared to what we already do.

i want to understand potential and real risks…  a lot of people are trying to making social change through shaping norms… to the extent that algo’s are making it easier/harder to do that… may be incredibly important..

a lot of this work is still at the level of .. what do we know.. and how do we know what matters… is this a space where it makes sense for us to intervene… we’d have to have a certain amount of confidence that things aren’t working well and that we could do things to improve…

23 min – many of questions i wrestle with these days boil around this:

what do we want citizenship to be?

what is it we want citizens to do in a public sphere.. what does a public sphere have to make it possible for citizens to do..

trying to figure out rules of road…

decision making et al – rev of everyday life… indeed a time we can’t miss.. ie: via short

via a nother way

for (blank)’s sake

“That’s _Professor_ Bozo to you, pal” – an announcement:…

Ethan Zuckerman on the morals and ethics of a P2P society and economics

Original Tweet:

is tech bringing us closer together..
not talking to refugees.. tendency to talk to those like us
p2p is really aspirational.. i fear in a lot of cases.. peer econ is an excuse for de regulating and not protecting vulnerables
for many americans econ has always been tenuous.. become new normal.. no jobs.. but gigs
what is it that we want work to be.. in past.. if people get ill .. want to take care of them
this whole notion of disruption is ..i’m going to ignore the law… i don’t want decisions just being made by vc’s
trust is so complicated.. hard to capture in number from 1-5… i live in town of 4000 people and i know my community…  people i would trust to take care of my child but not manage money.. and vice versa.. need to spend more time understanding trust.. not a simple number
my work today on – people don’t trust big… w no face.. hard time trusting
how do i know how to trust that airbnb guest.. on overinflating ratings.. haven’t solved problem yet..
real dilemma in collab econ.. what do we want work to look like… we all want a safety net
what worries me most.. despite all tech.. we still aren’t paying attention to the rest of the world and people who need most help and innovation from tech.. ie: all smart people in san fran and ny creating new toys for sf and ny…
what gives me hope.. hanging out in africa et al.. and see how many smart people are creating the future..
let’s look to people who are really creating future..
forbidden research
the rewiring.. ness?
networked individuaism graphic


city science (mit) – like personal fabricating your city.. no?


living spaces


city ness




Wherein @EthanZ suggests we learn to recognize the changes we hate. From @Medium…

The problem with hating change is that it doesn’t stop it from happening. It just assures that change will happen to you, rather than allowing you to choose to make a change.


overcome my instinctive fear,

sending love


published may 12 2016 – shared here oct 10 2016


Getting help with mental health issues is one of the most important things you can do. I did.… #WorldMentalHealthDay

more love.

much love.


via joi share on fb

Had a few thousand voters in swing states stayed home, we would be celebrating the first female Commander in Chief and laughing about what a strange year 2016 was.
Instead, we’re confronting the deep currents of racism, sexism, Islamophobia and xenophobia that infect American society.
In 2013, I published a book that argued that while the Internet made it possible for us to hear opinions and perspectives from all over the world, the vast majority of us go online to learn about topics we’re already interested in and to reinforce our existing biases and positions. Unlike my friend Eli Pariser, who places blame on unaccountable algorithms for “filter bubbles,” I see these echo chambers as the result of the basic human drive toward homophily, the tendency of birds of a feather to flock together.
Trump’s rise as a political figure has shown a deep understanding of Hallin’s spheres. He repeated an idea that was deviant — the elected president of the United States was a secret Kenyan Muslim — so loudly and relentlessly that it became part of the sphere of legitimate controversy.
Mainstream news outlets (including this one) dedicated thousands of hours to debating a “controversy” that never should have been controversial
My deep fear is that there’s no single set of Hallin’s spheres anymore. What’s consensus to a Trump supporter may be deviant to a Clinton supporter and vice versa. We now face an online media landscape so diverse and fragmented that each of us finds big enough spheres of legitimate controversy that we think we’re seeing a real debate at work.
perhaps fragmentated enough to.. disengage from consensus
because consensus always oppresses someone(s)
perhaps we have the tech capabilities (io dance ness) to redefine decision making.
How do we dissent and disagree democratically when we no longer know what’s worth debating?
binary ness.. et al
“Lunch with my friend, the Trump supporter” @EthanZ Tweet:

I’m uncomfortable both with where that line should be placed and, more broadly, with placing lines.[..]

Some “fake news” is propaganda. It’s weaponized text, designed to make our side look good and the other side look bad. Much propaganda isn’t fake – it’s simply heavily biased, and offers an incomplete view of events to have a persuasive effect.

but much of it is fake in the sense that it’s news about people who aren’t themselves.. so yes.. it’s news.. and it’s telling it like it is.. but.. what it is.. what we are.. isn’t really us.. wilde not-us law

naive/utopian/whatever.. i’m believing that eudaimoniative surplus is possible if we rewire wisely..

The medium term effect of propaganda is polarization, as we stop seeing our political opponents as reasonable people we disagree with, but as people who are so wrong and misguided that we couldn’t possibly find common ground with them. In the long term, propaganda destroys democracy, because it silences dissent and calcifies the parties currently in power.

A small amount of “fake news” is better described as *disinformatzya. Its goal is not to persuade readers of its truth so much as it attempts to raise doubt in the reader that anything is true. We’re not used to disinformatzya in the US, but it’s been quite common not only in Russia but in Turkey, where Erdogan has manufactured fake news designed to reduce Turkish trust in Twitter, trying to disable it as a vehicle for organized opposition to his leadership. The long-term effect of disinformatzya is reduced faith in institutions of all sorts: the press in particular, but government, banks, NGOs, etc. Who benefits from this doubt? People who already have power benefit from a population that’s disempowered, frustrated, confused. And highly charismatic leaders who promise guidance away from failed institutions benefit personally from this mistrust.

*from disinformatzya link

These hoaxes suggest an interesting new chapter in the ongoing infowar between the US and Russia. The goal of the infowar may no longer be to promote or discredit either the Kremlin or the White House. The goal may be to destroy trust in the internet, in social media and in news.

fake i refer  to is….ie: money as os;. govt as is as given; earn a living as given; school as give n; defn of success as given; war as given; people lazy as given…..

thinking .. imaginary humanism.. aka: science of people in schools

decades, nations have worked to produce news that reflects their specific point of view. The

any ones pov… as truth… fake


It should not have been a surprise that Russia would take to international broadcasting to promote a national agenda, joining stated sponsored

yes.. more this.. anything w agenda… anyone’s pov as agenda.. fake to a human being


There’s a long history in American politics of conspiracy theories gaining wide audiences. Historian Richard Hofstadter identified this in 1964 as “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”, a tendency for those who feel alienated and dispossessed to see America as controlled by a secret cabal. Knowing that it is unlikely to persuade the majority of Americans to see their government as a global hegemon and Russia as the tireless defender of sovereign nations, perhaps RT is appealing to those who are predisposed to “Question More”, as the network’s slogan suggests. While that approach won’t work for most Americans, it may work for the 19% of Americans who believe the government was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
predisposed to question more… like a 5 yr old… before they enter fake world of school…
aka: the good intentioned
outside agitation in creating “color revolutions” is consistent with Russia’s preferred framing of the world – sovereignty versus agitation – rather than the US’s preferred framing – democracy versus authoritarianism.

ie: when has democracy ever been anti authoritarian…? when have we ever not sought to control that 5 yr old… sought to control people… smaller local groups doesn’t change game enough.. we have to ongoingly be approaching limit of ginorm small…ie: self-talk as data… as the day

cure ios city


It’s expensive to persuade someone to believe something that isn’t true. Persuading someone that _nothing_ is true, that every “fact” represents a hidden agenda, is a far more efficient way to paralyze citizens and keep them from acting. It’s a dark art, one with a long past in Russia and in the US, and one we’re now living with online.

if we consider.. not true because not us… creates an awakening…


sept 2017


A conversation about @civicMIT with @heffnera and me on @OpenMindTV, now online:…

is the media you’re consuming making it easier for you to be an active citizen

how do we overhaul media around the idea of individual efficacy

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

how do we define civics now.. electing someone to congress.. or moving on solar panels..

efficacy – where do you feel like you could make a diff

how do you change people’s minds.. proceeds changing the law

ie: blm – we’re not going to legislate our way out of this.. so we have to go after that set of social norms..

ie: rather than slactivism.. getting media to think about how they portray victims of crime.. which photo to use.. news getting more attention.. young people turning to digital media because a place they feel they can find ethics..

what we call civic is so much broader than reading news.. going to vote..

i would say.. today.. trying to get legislation passed is one of the hardest things to do.. so when i’m talking to young people about civics.. i’m really cautious about giving primacy to that model of civics.. we have a focus on.. if we didn’t get ie: legislative change.. that’s not the only way to make change..

i’m not sure police violence is going to be changed by laws.. rather.. by norms.. better training..

trying to get beyond the: you didn’t pass a law .. you didn’t accomplish anything.. and say.. what are the other ways you can make change

ie: mit students.. engineering.. upset nsa reveals didn’t change much.. so .. they go to code.. and to making communication more secure..

trust as a whole.. in institutions in us.. is in a crisis.. flipped 180 from 64.. some people benefit from this.. if you have a simple narrative.. do well.. if complex.. do poorly.. this moment of high mistrust is benefitting people

begs we try deep/simple/open-enough-for-all-of-us.. narrative

20 min – on rewire.. 2010 – i’d say.. so far below our potential.. need better tools et al.. seemed like almost immediate interconnection would happen.. as soon as i published.. really was too soon.. we went native..  brexit et al.. people etc.. leads to these simple nativist solutions..local/individual..  destructive.. really big problems we need to solve are global in scale.. no way to solve w/o going across globals.. ie: concerned about rest of world as much as us has become a neg response..

online now.. you can find exactly the stream (right or left) niche you want to listen to .. this atomization of media.. ability to surround yourself w echo chamber.. has changed media landscape

27 min – civics: people trying to make social change..



Bryan Stevenson rule #2: We have to get the narrative right. What if it wasn’t a war on drugs, but help for addicted people? #ObamaSummit

aka: all of us

scattered.. not yet scrambled.. et al .. begs roots of healing

via 2 convos .. as the day

Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) tweeted at 6:49 AM – 3 Nov 2017 :

Good morning! My takeaways from the inaugural #ObamaFoundation summit in Chicago this week: (

It’s a complicated point for people engaged in co-design, the practice of designing solutions in a way that deeply involves the beneficiaries in the planning and creation of projects intended to benefit them

begs.. rev of everyday life.. mech to listen-to/facil 7 bn cure ios city ‘s everyday


on facebook

Siva Vaidhyanathan (@sivavaid) tweeted at 6:46 AM – 27 Jan 2018 :

Facebook is acting against the public good, and it’s time for people to build alternatives, @EthanZ argues.

Instead of telling Facebook what it should do, people should build tools that let them view the world the way they choose.

mech to facil 2 convos .. as the day

Obviously, Facebook is filled with people who care deeply about these issues. Some are my friends and my former students. But Facebook suffers from a problem of its own success. It has grown so central to our mediated understanding of the world that it either needs to learn to listen to its users stated desires, or it needs to make room for platforms that do.

science of people ness..  is killing us.. we have no idea what we’re like.. let’s listen for it could be


feb 2018 – Social networks are broken. This man wants to fix them. – Ethan Zuckerman on fighting social media’s echo chamber.

I think that building an internet where we didn’t have to pay for anything, because our attention was going to be the commodity that was traded, is one of the most destructive and shortsighted decisions that we could have made.


“We’ve lost about ten years of innovation. I feel like this last decade has been pretty boring for the web.” @NYMag interviews @EthanZ about the Internet’s “original sin” of advertising and its current existential crisis

Original Tweet:

it’s really been the heart of the argument I’ve been making for a couple of years now. I think the main thing that most of us didn’t really consider is that once we got into a world where everybody could publish, the thing that becomes scarce is attention. And when you’re fighting each other for attention, suddenly, fighting advertisers for attention seems like a really bad idea. So, once content is incredibly plentiful, and attention is what becomes scarce, you’re locked into this really strange economy, where you’re trying to provide a service, you’re trying to get people to pay attention to it,..t..  and simultaneously, you’re also trying to get people to go away, and go pay attention to someone else.

maybe that’s our bigger/deeper problem.. thinking we should be working for others.. we have the means now perhaps.. to get back to an undisturbed ecosystem..

imagine tech/mech that facils us paying attention to eudaimoniative surplus the energy w/in each one of us.. (ie: via self-talk as data) ..what we need most is the energy from 7bn alive people..

we’ve sort of picked a revenue model in which we’re in conflict with one another, rather than working coherently in a way where we all end up feeling good about *incentives being aligned..t

let’s facil 7bn daily *curiosities.. start each day w what comes from w/in each one of us..

ie: 2 convos .. as the day

we didn’t take advantage of the ways in which the internet makes it possible to state your intentions..t.. That, to me, just feels like a much healthier way to do this than trying to intuit your intentions based on who we think you are.

as it could be..

i think we’re missing what it could be.. big time.. and perhaps.. precisely because we’ve still got that hierarchical format for listening.. ie: you can’t hear me..

If we want to get rid of advertising all across the board, I’m open to sort of brainstorming this model. .t

short bp


Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) tweeted at 7:11 AM – 10 May 2018 :

@quinnnorton (

Four problems for news and democracy

Here are some “buckets” for making sense of why: addiction, economics, bad actors and known bugs

Citizens amplify content they like, sending signals back to distributor that they’d like more of the same. They create content that reacts to what’s been presented to them, entering the cycle as producers. t

thinking this is a bug/problem.. imagining an undisturbed ecosystem would be less about reacting.. more about listening (to spontaneous self first.. everyday)

These discovery services are attention brokers, making their money from siphoning a fraction of attention off and selling it to advertisers.

this attention is from not-us people.. we need the attention to be from w/in first.. everyday.. because the energy we need most.. is from alive people

Harder is the problem of getting people to pay attention to the high quality news that’s already produced. . t

see.. i think this is the wrong focus.. we should be paying attention to ie: curiosity first (the news is all about fake people until we all wake up.. and once we’re all awake.. i’m thinking news will mean something completely different)

What’s most needed here is a way for platforms and their critics to share data, tools and methods in a way that’s less threatening to both sides…

so to me.. that’s a much deeper issue.. because i think we’d have sharing/non-threatening/non-sides ness.. if we focused on a non hierarchical listening mech first.. so that 7bn people got a go.. everyday..

Everyone needs a way for these parties to work together with some mutual understanding, tolerance and care, with a joint goal of making bad actors less powerful. . t

gershenfeld sel

(This piece is offered as a complement to an essay I recently wrote for The Atlantic on understanding the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal through the lens of known bugs rather than bad actors — you may want to read that as well.)

Never before have we had the technological infrastructure to support the weaponization of emotion on a global scale..t

never before have we had the tech infra to support listening to all the voices.. everyday.. why have we not yet tried that..? that would be our best means to render the negatives irrelevant

as it could be


Charles Koch Inst. (@CKinstitute) tweeted at 7:42 AM – 7 Dec 2018 :
“Fact checking alone is not going to save us. We actually have to ask the question that Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush asked themselves, ‘What do we want media to do for us and our democracy?’” — @EthanZ #FOSO18

what are we curious about
ie: gershenfeld something else law

from his 28 min livestream:

very hard to find a single narrative

post office act – have to have money to protect against future lawsuit.. even if have license to run a printing press .. have to have millions to counter law suit.. but not in us… more costly than newspapers.. so govt subsidy so serious.. if broke in 1881 – you do it via newspaper

what’s really insane – change copy – can send newspapers free to any other newspaper outlet.. so really cut and paste

basically us in 1830.. a large postal system a small army/admin attached.. and this is intentional.. founders trying to create a space for convo of future of democracy.. yet.. not actually including an inclusive group.. but in creating this neutral space others figure out how to use it.. so lots of liberation movements try to figure out how to use this (blacks, et al)

90% of what’s in a newspaper is advertising.. basically craigslist w small amount of content..  filled w fake news.. franklin – great way to make money.. is to sell slander

on fb – and rich people saying – just get off fb.. but for a lot of people.. that is their interconnectivity.. some places don’t know google.. they use fb for all of that.. telling people to just get off fb is irresponsible

fact checking alone is not going to save us.. we have to ask – what do we want media for us to do in democracy..t

facil cure ios city.. ie: listen to 7bn voices everyday and augment our interconnectedness via that data – tech as it could be

we could build spaces that are designed to help us talk to one another..t

2 convers as infra

we need a public goods vision of social media.. t

common\ing.. sans money/measure/agenda/strings.. ads

the center of the problem: we’re not listening to all the voices.. everyday (tech as it could be)

taleb center of problem law


from ethan z on moderating/fb:

Powerful piece on content moderation and the emotional toll it can take on employees. It’s good that we’re seeing reporting and scholarship on these conditions, but awareness isn’t enough. We are going to need different models.

Original Tweet:

I oversaw the customer service and “abuse” teams for Tripod, one of the first user-generated content companies, from 1997-9. I still remember some of the images I saw then, and this was before video was common online. I can only imagine how scarring imagery is now.

Part of what Tripod did well was ensuring that our moderation team was fully part of the company. We saw the team as an essential part of our product development. Before we launched a new product, we’d sit down with the team to anticipate problems and track reactions.

As a result, it was pretty routine for people to move from customer service roles to other roles in the company, which helped mitigate burnout. What’s so awful in this story is that it’s clear that there’s no path out of this stressful and painful job.

Worth noting that most of the folks who do this work are not in the US, but are in countries like the Philippines, and it’s likely that conditions in those contractors are even worse on people’s minds and spirits.

In the long run, I don’t believe that platforms that support 2.3 billion users are viable. They cannot be governed in ways that are fair and effective. What would this work look like in a platform that was an actual community, with people moderating spaces they were invested in?

rather.. if people were truly free to be themselves.. so not creating things that need moderating in the first place.. we need (and can now facil) a world where we aren’t needing/seeking inspectors of inspectors et al at all.. ie: gershenfeld something else law; undisturbed ecosystem; ..


Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) tweeted at 9:09 AM on Tue, Mar 12, 2019:
In 1997, I and my colleagues at unleashed the pop-up ad on the world. Oops. #web30 #fortheweb #reallysorry


Turi Munthe (@turi) tweeted at 12:59 AM – 16 Jul 2019 :
“A plurality of unreality does not persuade the listener of one set of facts or another, but encourages the listener to doubt everything.”
QAnon and the Emergence of the Unreal ⁦@EthanZ⁩ (

If Unreality is an emergent feature in today’s world, it is worth asking questions about its effects. Who wins and loses in a world of conflicting realities?

not new.. been perpetuating it for some time now.. ie: whales in sea world

This war between realities is the landscape we find ourselves collectively navigating. It is our task to understand how we act as individuals and citizens in a world where the emergent mode of discourse is not to persuade someone of your interpretation of the facts, but to *recruit them to your own reality. Our ultimate challenge is not only to navigate this space but, at best, to **heal and transform it.

*ie: supposed to’s.. of school/work

to **heal and transfrom.. let’s try cure ios city

ie: 2 convers as infra via tech as it could be..


About that @BostonGlobe story… On me, and deciding to leave @MIT @medialab:
Original Tweet:

Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) tweeted at 0:04 PM on Wed, Aug 21, 2019:
Thanks for the warm support I’ve gotten from so many people here. I’ve added a note to my post from last night in response to a point a friend made –

Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) tweeted at 0:04 PM on Wed, Aug 21, 2019:
She pointed out that I’ve been able to leave the lab in part due to privilege. I am a cis-gendered, straight white dude fairly senior in my career, with money in the bank and pretty good job prospects. Not everyone at @MIT @medialab is going to be able to do what I am doing.

Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) tweeted at 0:04 PM on Wed, Aug 21, 2019:
They need your support too, whether they leave or stay. Maybe those who need the support most are those who stay to try and change things, or those who stay because this platform is the best chance they have to change their lives. They deserve your love and support too. Thanks.


Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) tweeted at 6:41 AM on Thu, Sep 12, 2019:
I’m worn raw by one of the worst months of my life, but this morning I’m editing a new piece by one of my favorite writers in the world – @peterpomeranzev  – and for a brief moment there I’m remembering what I love about my life and work.


The Engine Room (@EngnRoom) tweeted at 5:26 AM – 29 Jan 2020 :
“We don’t have to accept (and adapt to) the hazards of our digital media landscape. Referencing the successes of public media @EthanZ imagines a ‘digital public infrastructure’ for @knightcolumbia. (

public service digital media need to help create an ecosystem of alternative social networks, designed for use by a wide range of communities for conversation, deliberation, and mobilization..

We are nowhere near as good at proposing and exploring alternatives  t

ie: 2 convers as infra


Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) tweeted at 8:17 AM on Tue, Apr 28, 2020:
Next steps: this fall, I will be joining @UMassAmherst as an associate professor of public policy, information and communication and launching a new research center, the Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure. Excited and grateful:

digital public infra: 2 convers as infra via tech as it could be.. (if only you could hear)