2019-2020 Jennifer and Eric Spiegel Award Winner: Taylor Robinson
New Technological Warfare: The Power of the Public
The growth of new technologies via companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple has revolutionized individual level communication and has expanded global connectedness. This increased and instant access to information around the world has created new ways to receive and share ideas. Most in favor of society’s attachment to technology would argue that greater connectedness brings people together in a harmonious way to discuss and solve the world’s problems. In this essay, Taylor Robinson comments on the dangers of large audiences online that have the power to control discourse, reinforce their own views, and dismiss contradictory or offensive views in a mob mentality known as cancel culture. She argues that mass audiences on social media, with an analysis of Twitter as a social platform, pose a threat to principles of fair debate proposed by argumentation philosophers, Douglas Ehninger and Wayne Brockriede. Taylor discusses the ramifications of group mentality on argument using theories by Marshall McLuhan and Cass Sunstein. She also employs Safiya Noble’s interpretation of online information to ask whether people can truly grow and change in real life when online spaces use accessible information to permanently define who we are.