The early Internet witnessed the flourishing of a digitally networked public sphere in which many people, including dissidents who had little to no access to mass media, found a voice as well as a place to connect with one another. As the Internet matures, its initial decentralized form has been increasingly replaced by a small number of ad-financed platforms, such as Facebook and Google, which structure the online experience of billions of people. These platforms often design, control, influence, and “optimize” the user experience according to their own internal values and priorities, sometimes using emergent methods such as algorithmic filtering and computational inference of private traits from computational social science. The shift to a small number of controlling platforms stems from a variety of dynamics, including network effects and the attractions of easier-to-use, closed platforms. This article considers these developments and their consequences for the vital ity of the public sphere.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Political Science and International Relations
- History and Philosophy of Science