Briefly noted: The Economist looks at “bits and ballots”

To paraphrase a line attributed to Trotsky, you may not be interested in tech, but tech is interested in you. The current issue of The Economist contains not only an editorial but also an entire multi-article special report on technology and politics (read my final note before clicking). The entire package is worth reading whether or not you already have a grasp of the promise and the threat of digital technologies. As the editorial concludes, “The original vision of the internet, as a self-governing cyber-Utopia, has long since been consigned to history.… But it remains a public good. The danger is that the centralisation of data may undo many of the democratic gains that social media and other technologies have brought.”

The special report’s only shortcoming, if it has one, is that it includes no links for online readers. This is common for almost everything the magazine publishes; in my recollection, only an occasional column gives full source information (in print and online) for cited research papers. Since the magazine’s printed edition necessarily contains no actual links in its text, adding them for the online edition would make for a lot of work, and it wouldn’t be possible for any reference where a person’s views can’t easily be pinned to one particular publication. Still, it could be done in many cases. Why does Zeynep Tufekci fear the use of data by political campaigns? (“Fragmenting the public sphere” isn’t very clear, and besides, one might suppose the public sphere had already been fragmented by political polarization.) Where does Evgeny Morozov make his case for restrictions on the data possessed by corporations such as Facebook and Google? Both authors frequently publish articles online, and Morozov has published books as well. I wish it were easier to learn more about the particular arguments cited by The Economist, but nothing keeps me from searching on my own.

If you’re not a subscriber, I believe you’ll be limited to reading only three articles in a given week. I suggest this, this, and this.

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