Technology can both centralize power, and it can subvert it. It can broadcast one voice, or it can cultivate a multitude of voices. It can foster opposition, and it can bring empathy.
But instead of describing how technology can improve our democratic process in the future, I’ll highlight a social action that’s already building momentum toward such an improvement—and consider how technology can support that.
The 2016 election cycle demonstrated what happens when media outlets favor views over integrity, and audiences favor validation over depth. Outlets subsidized by ad impressions—coupled with audiences willing to share articles that confirmed their biases—provided feedback loops to push some outlets to cater to bias. The walls between points of view thickened. There now seem to be multiple realities, each with media outlets to support them with fragments of a story instead of the full picture. Because of this divisiveness, people cannot understand each other, and even choose to ignore each other.
Post-election shock among those who did not believe Donald Trump could win the presidency appeared online, followed by organizing and action across a range of expressive outlets. In this, a new form of media emerged. Sticky notes placed on subway tiles revealed fear, love, and hope. Posters were made for protests, and then displayed publicly afterwards. For many, this public expression offered a renewed sense of purpose and confidence around activism.