By Deb Roy
Many people have put forth theories about why, exactly, the internet is bad. The arguments go something like this: Social platforms encourage cruelty, snap reactions, and the spreading of disinformation, and they allow for all of this to take place without accountability, instantaneously and at scale.
Clearly, we must upgrade our communication technology and habits to meet the demands of pluralistic democracies in a networked age. But we need not abandon the social web, or even avoid scalability, to do so. At MIT, where I am a professor and the director of the MIT Center for Constructive Communication (based at the MIT Media Lab), my colleagues and I have thought deeply about how to make the internet a better, more productive place. What I’ve come to learn is that new kinds of social networks can be designed for constructive communication—for listening, dialogue, deliberation, and mediation—and they can actually work.