By Adam Piore
Last fall, Deb Roy, one of the US’s foremost experts on social media, attended a series of roundtables in small towns in middle America—places like Platteville, Wisconsin, and Anamosa, Iowa. It wasn’t what Roy, who runs the Laboratory for Social Machines at the MIT Media Lab, was used to: there were no computer screens in the rooms, no tweets or posts to examine. Instead, he just listened to community leaders and local residents talk, face to face, about their neighbors.
What he heard alarmed him greatly.