Vaidhyanathan’s approach to his subject matter is laudably reasonable and realistic. He brings political critique to bear on various digital technologies, while grounding that critique in a practical understanding of the technologies’ benefits and drawbacks. His are not tirades or spiked jeremiads. Beyond the commonplace that all technologies include public goods and bads, though, he uncovers the assumptions and cultural commitments that give them shape. To develop his message, he has long aimed his findings at audiences both within and beyond the academy, with a publication record that spans peer-reviewed journals to the纽约时报中，New Yorker和Washington Post, to石板，NPR，英国广播公司，CNN，MSNBC等。
His new book,反社会媒体:How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy，有助于解释为什么与Facebook的问题是，基本上，Facebook的，在其设计和结构。我最近与Vaidhyanathan，媒体研究的弗吉尼亚大学教授罗伯逊谈到，关于新书，他的工作神秘化技术，以及他发现的梦反社会媒体过时在适当的时候，因为我们已经制定的政策来纠正社会化媒体带来对民主的挑战。
锡瓦·瓦德亚纳森（SV）：首先，我必须想出了Facebook的问题有多大，多么艰巨而不可解。我知道我想告诉其全球的故事。但是，当我开始琢磨大数目 - 2.2十亿人，周围的普通Facebook用户数量世界它发生，我认为我还没有遇到过这个数字在任何其他媒体或奖学金媒体帐户。试想一下，BBC曾达到2.2十亿人。所以一旦我开始掌握Facebook的世界影响力的艰巨性，我觉得像克尔凯郭尔，有可能被破坏和全能的权力前瑟瑟发抖。我开始觉得可能是无解到Facebook已经给我们带来了问题。有可能不是。这就是我在附近的开端。
BRC：Where did you land in the book?
SV：There are little things Facebook could do, too. They’re doing things to curb some of the pernicious effects in the world, but they refuse to confront the core problem, which is, yes, Facebook itself. And that’s not surprising. They would run through the halls of the Facebook offices screaming if they actually confronted the fact that the problem with Facebook is Facebook, that to truly reform or limit the damage, they’d have to undo its essence.
BRC：In your analysis, this is also an issue of scale. I mean, over a quarter of the human population …
SV：Yes, these problems are all problems of scale and amplification. The fact that Facebook now hosts profiles of 2.2 billion people and growing, the fact that it has a set of algorithms that amplify extreme content that generates strong emotions, the fact that Facebook operates in more than 120 languages, and the fact that it’s tethered to an advertising system that precisely and constantly targets people with propaganda means that the only way to fix any of these problems is to undo one or more of those aspects. And if you did that, you would not have Facebook. Facebook has made us victims of its own success.
BRC：让我回到了一分钟。我们正在非常迅速地谈论通信技术的庞然大物。广播，电视，电影，通信技术的互联网 - 它们的所有系统。我不说，以降低自己的身份，而是问你是如何开始这条道路上，你怎么来这里学习的数字社会媒体。
SV：I went to graduate school in the 1990s, and I can tell you this: nobody went to grad school in the 1990s to study the internet. But I was working on my first book, a cultural history of American copyright, and by the end of the 1990s it was clear I’d have to take on digital technology. Digital technology was destined to mess with copyright, so I found myself scrambling to learn how the internet worked, how digital compression worked, how digital recording worked, about this emerging thing called internet culture, because all of these things were going to affect the practices of copyright protection and the practices of cultural dissemination in the immediate future. And I was right about that one, right?
SV：I think that’s right. That first book on copyright came out in 2001. It went from the origins of copyright in the British Isles, in 1710, right up through the dot-com boom and then the rise of Napster, which is how I concluded the book in 2000, 2001. At that very moment I was on the job market, and universities were looking for people who could write and teach about the internet. There were only a handful of us, many of whom had taken more traditional fields of study and bent them toward the digital at some professional risk. And we all were very fortunate that there were departments of communication and media studies and library and information studies that were willing to take a chance on a completely new field. That means that many of us who were trained in other fields—my PhD was in American Studies—found ourselves in very different departments.
BRC：I suppose that could be a straightforward point about careers and job markets, but in your case it also speaks to the perception—or lack thereof—that this newly scaled form of digital communication is a thing one would study. Like today, if someone got an academic job as a specialist in, I don’t know, Bitmoji Studies, because 20 years from now a quarter of all human publications were bitmoji-based.
BRC：Part of the field of relevance here is media studies, communication technologies. You’ve called it “Critical Information Studies.” But the broader context is engineering and technology, about how engineers think and work and what values drive technologies. You said earlier that, since you were at the leading edge of this area of study, you scrambled to learn how the internet worked, how compression worked, and so on. These are technical aspects, though ultimately you’re talking about social media as more than its mere technical features. Did you find it odd in the beginning of your career that engineers weren’t the ones asking the questions you were, that your study was not coming from the actual network engineers?
SV：你知道，我发现在我的职业生涯早期是人们在计算机科学和工程等领域均fascinatedby law, policy, ethics, and all of the other cultural, political, and social ramifications of technology. So I quickly made friends with technology scholars who were very generous with their time, to make sure that I didn’t make too many mistakes when I described digital technologies. It was gratifying that engineers especially were urging us on in the early years to create this field that would in many ways criticize their work, but, certainly from their point of view, make their work better and more humane.
BRC：Why is it usually that direction? Did you find engineers asking social scientists and humanists to make sure they weren’t making too many mistakes?
SV：I think that there is some of that, there is. My long-term relationships with engineering professors have been very much along those lines. They invite me to speak to their students with some frequency. I admit I may be an exception, in the sense that I’ve developed longstanding relationships. I’ve been heavily involved in the development of our data science degree programs at my school, for example, and law policy and ethics have been central to that process from the beginning. Honestly, what’s even more interesting to me is that the students are much more cynical and resistant to my point of view than the faculty. That’s another reason engineering faculty invite me in to speak to their students. I wish it would happen more, but to be fair, I think it’s more about being too busy and immersed in our own work than any sort of ideological resistance.
SV：我倾向于认为，这是一个老得多的现象。我抗拒的定义千年，我不认为有这样一种动物。老年人实行了，年轻人都应该考虑成为工程师，直到他们发现，他们不能做的工作势在必行，接着又切换到别的东西。这不是一个新现象，但我认为它现在更强大。我认为它来自一个根本性的错误在许多人的执政一部分是一名工程师是人生的一个非常有益的方式，世界需要更多的工程师。这可能是部分正确，但事实是，不是每个人都有的工具集或准备成为一名工程师。这是一个生活的一个高度专业化的方式。全国各地的许多工程学校，现在，包括UVA我们，尽量保证工程师心胸宽广的人。他们，我们，要求他们用大思路和历史等参与。这是一个愿望。我敢肯定，我们并不总是辜负它。 But it is an ongoing and widespread conversation to help generate citizen-engineers rather than merely tracking people into careers.
BRC：Underlying all of this is the thought, We don’t want—or it wouldn’t be good—to have the Zuckerberg mentality, one where a massive technological system was designed and structured without重视法律，政策，从一开始就道德，迫使我们去修补它的事实之后，作为强制事后的想法。我会回来给Facebook下文明确，但一般情况下，我们与评论开始这次谈话是在谈论数字社交媒体都在谈论技术政治。然而，这需要大量的工作，以使该对这些系统思维的常用方法。大多数人认为那些为两个单独的谈话，但他们都是一样的。你在课堂上工作，我从你的写作得到，力求浅显易懂的数字技术。
SV：I think so, yes. I try to do that technology-busting rhetorical move all the time. It’s important that we recognize that even just数字technologies have their own special features (启示，因为我们会在科技研究说）。但即便如此，从广义的数字技术中，有做不同的事情，并在世界上不同的影响具体的技术。所以AI和VR是不一样的东西，他们打算对世界有不同的影响，因为他们在不同的上下文中运行。I’m not a fan of Marshall McLuhan, but I always teach one of his core insights that I think is crucial to understanding our role as human beings, not just to understanding technology, which is that technologies are extensions of ourselves—the car is an extension of my legs. It amplifies what I can do in terms of getting from point A to point B. It’s more than that, of course. It turns out it’s also an extension of my stereo system. It’s an extension of my phone—
SV：Yeah, it’s an extension of my kitchen in the sense of my breakfast nook. It performs multiple functions. But it displaces and supplements and extends different activities that I was already going to do. And that’s really helpful. Think of even the ones that don’t seem quite so obvious, that a lightbulb is an extension of our eyes, because it extends the power of our eyes. And the other thing that we need to do—McLuhan was good at reminding us of this—is that we should denaturalize technology. Don’t assume the chalkboard in my classroom is a given and the computer in my classroom is technology—that one is natural and one is unnatural. The chalkboard and the computer that displays PowerPoint slides do similar work in different ways. As we look at the overall technological makeup of the classroom, we have to keep all of that in mind and decide which technologies to use in which situations.
BRC：And with the car example, if this is a policy discussion and you want to talk about, say, texting and driving, then you can’t just approach that issue as if the technologies at hand—phones, cars—were discrete and static objects. They are, as you say, new extensions and social capacities. You have to approach them with that social complexity, not just technical capability, no?
SV：小号ure, and then there are whole other levels, even in just this case. The phone fundamentally changes the car, and the car fundamentally changes the phone. The act of driving is very different now than it was 10 years ago. The act of communicating through an electronic device is different now than it was 10 years ago. Even though we had mobile phones 10 years ago, the fact that I have instant Bluetooth connection in my phone makes my car a phone. I have voice command in there! It’s bizarre.
BRC：It’s that line I’ve heard, maybe it was from a comedian: I can’t believe I can make calls on my camera.
As long as we insist on conducting our politics through a commercial service, we are going to destroy our politics.
BRC：在这一点上,如何谈技术in the broader public sphere—and thus about technology policy—it just seems so much more difficult with a system that became so ubiquitous so quickly, I mean, 2.2 billion users on that platform alone in a decade. With cars, it built up somewhat more slowly, so, sure, it was problematic, it still is problematic, but we’ve been working on it for a long time. Here, though, is a new form of connection and daily infrastructure for so many of us. And not only that, but its massive presence makes people feel like they already understand it, because they use and maneuver through it everyday. The question is, what do you do, as a scholar, to talk about Facebook in ways that shed light for people who probably feel like they already get it?
SV：问题是,在过去的10年里,数字技术logy has become harder to understand, not easier. The easier it is to use, the harder it is to understand. I hate to play the when-I-was-young card, but just this once … When I was young, you could open up a personal computer and pull out the soundboard and pull out the video board, if you even had one, and swap in new RAM rather easily. You often didn’t even need a screwdriver. You could look and see, Oh, here’s the motherboard, here’s where the RAM slots are, here’s where the different peripherals go, here’s where the printer plugs in, and you could take it apart and you could put it back together with a tiny screwdriver and—and learn how it works. And you could customize it, like you can customize a 1965 Mustang. That ability to hack it meant that there was a greater potential that you could understand its powers and its limitations. But it also meant that you got to see the markings of human interaction.
SV：对,这盒子,我前几人nal computers sat was big enough for human hands to operate inside. It was designed so that you could get your hands in there, and you could clearly see that people had used their hands to install this stuff. Now the computer sitting in front of me is not even an inch thick and is remarkably powerful and, for all I know, is run by a troop of tiny elves, because there’s no way for me to know what’s inside. It’s a sealed box. Everything is so easy to use that we don’t even ask, I wonder how that works? We’re in this bizarre situation where the only thing young people are told is to sign up for some sort of code academy and learn how to code. They are prevented from getting under the hood and changing spark plugs. We all are. And that’s intentional. The car companies wanted to create black boxes that are heavily computerized to limit competition in customization and repairs. That’s increasingly the technological world in which we live, one in which we are supposed to assume everything is magic and that it will just work. Going back to your earlier question, part of my job is to demystify these technologies, to get people to recognize that they are the products of human hands and human ingenuity. So you can see that human decisions and biases affected how they were designed and how they work in the world.
BRC：有关媒体系统由人与人之间的关系和偏见，意识形态，政治权力形我会指向线在你的书。Part of what you’re saying is that the relationships we have with these systems that a near-quarter of the human population uses—us included, I mean, you and I are talking by Skype through our laptops right now—these relationships encourage us to think we are individuals acting through social media, that we make these choices without recognizing how the design encourages certain forms of interaction over others. We’re so inside it we can’t even tell we’re acting on decisions of others’ making. I feel like I’m about to quote Marx here, so I’ll back off.
SV：Facebook is designed to allow or encourage immediate and shallow interactions with a post. It could be a photograph, a block of text, an article from some publication, but in every case, you’re not invited to annotate the text or engage in a deliberative back-and-forth conversation. You’re invited to deal with a string of nested comments, encouraging, by design, speed and shallowness. If Facebook were devoted to deliberation, to encouraging users to participate and engage in an affective cognitive manner, it wouldn’t allow people to comment unless they had clicked through and scanned every word of the story in question. Wouldn’t that be interesting? You’re not allowed to comment unless you do that? And no, of course Facebook has no incentive to do that. It’s designed for rapid, often emotional, response. It is very poorly designed for deep deliberation.
BRC：You have, then, a concrete example of capitalist metrics in tension with those of democratic deliberation. That doesn’t have to be some esoteric think piece point. It’s right there in the clicks.
SV：And look, there’s a part of this that could make the conversation confusing, because when I say that Facebook undermines democracy, people who share my politics often take that word, democracy, and assume I mean all the things I support, basic human rights and civil rights and equal opportunity and all those liberal principles, but that’s not what I mean in this instance. I mean here a public’s ability to govern itself. And when you have a diverse public, you need to have norms and practices that respect that diversity and allow for multiple voices to argue over a shared set of facts toward an end, and that end might be a compromise or some agreement. The end can come in many forms, but we’re not even close to having that right now. Facebook’s not the only reason, I hope I don’t even have to add that, but Facebook is so powerful that it’s hurting rather than helping.
SV：Right, that’s right.
SV：小号o look, one of my great hopes is that when the next big wave comes, way beyond Facebook, people who’ve read my work come to it with a set of questions and approaches that can help make sense of it up front. If more of us had thought deeply about what Neil Postman offered us, we might not have rushed into the Facebook world with such enthusiasm. That’s all you can hope for in our business, that some people might think differently next time they face a problem.
BRC：你愿意找人反社会媒体in 20 years and think, “That is so dated, I can’t believe people were worried about that,” or that the future reader thinks, “Well, he really nailed it, we haven’t heeded what he offered,” just as Zuckerberg wasn’t the broad-minded engineer that engineering schools were trying to educate?