Kentaro Toyama: Technology’s Law of Amplification, and What It Means for iSchools
The iConference 2019 Opening Plenary includes the conference welcome, presentatin of the Lee Dirks Award for Best Paper, recognition of the Blue Sky Paper award winners, and keynote address by Kentaro Toyama, W. K. Kellogg Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan School of Information and a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT.
Toyama's Keynote Abstract: The same social media that connects us with friends and colleagues accelerates fake news. The same Internet that enables international banking allows remote theft and ransomware. The same digital technology that empowers economic growth exacerbates inequality. In 2015, I published a book, Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology(PublicAffairs), that proposed that a simple “Law of Amplification” explained and even predicted these kinds of information technology impacts — positive, negative, and in between. My hope was to influence two key groups familiar to the information community: technologists interested in social change, and social activists excited about applying technology.
Four years out, I am not sure what the net impact of the book has been, but I have received a lot of excellent feedback. In this talk, I will overview the amplification thesis, discuss the feedback I have heard (and not heard), and highlight a paradoxical consequence of technological amplification — that in an age of advanced technology, people and institutions matter even more than before. This last point hints at an essential, discipline-unifying role for Schools of Information that I would like to propose for the iConference community.