Digital Democracy 101: The Attention Economy

2019, Democracy, Media + Information

Before you vote, learn about the attention economy

Discover the unseen forces on digital platforms that can affect what information you see – and what you don’t - in this free lecture by Carl Miller, Research Director at Demos. He'll explain how the ‘attention economy’ can harm democracy.

The competition for our time and attention by digital platforms, which can often skew what we see and from whom, may leave us without the trusted information we need to make a confident decision in an election.

This is one of three free public lectures hosted by the Public Policy Forum and its partners that explain how our democracy is affected by the manipulation of information and trust on digital platforms. For details on the other lectures, you can check out our Digital Democracy 101 project page.

This event is co-presented by SFU Public Square and the Public Policy Forum with support from the Government of Canada and Global Public Affairs Canada.  

Mon, 04 Mar 2019

6:00 - 7:30 p.m. (PT)

SFU Harbour Centre Campus Vancouver
Room 1400
515 West Hastings Street

We respectfully acknowledge that this event takes place on the Unceded, Traditional, Ancestral Territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ, and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm First Nations.

About Digital Democracy 101

Many Canadians actively use digital platforms without fully understanding the technology behind them and, crucially, how technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, social platform algorithms and others are altering Canadian political culture. Participation, the civility of political discourse and the basis of trust on which Canadian democracy and the economy depend have all been affected. Digital Democracy 101 aims to plug this gap and grow Canadians’ understanding of new digital technologies and their relationship with the democratic process.

The Digital Democracy 101 Lecture Series will take place in Vancouver, Halifax and Montreal and explain three different digital technology topics: the attention economy, synthetic media and artificial intelligence. Each lecture will be delivered by a subject matter expert and be tailored to a novice audience. Each 90 minute ‘lecture’ will be split into three parts: an expert lecture, a one-on-one discussion between expert and moderator, and a Q&A with the audience.


Carl Miller

Carl Miller is the Research Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) at Demos.

He is interested in how social media is changing society, and how researching it can inform important decisions. This includes:

  •        Digital politics and digital democracy
  •        Cybercrime, and the hacking community
  •        Cyber-bullying, hate crime, misogyny and abuse online
  •        Information warfare and online disinformation
  •        ‘Fake news’, digital and citizen journalism
  •        Automated decision-making, Internet governance and digital addiction
  •        Building new methods and technology to study social media data

He researches and writes widely on these issues, including for Wired, New Scientist, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London.

His first book is The Death of the Gods: The New Global Power Grab. An examination of the new centres of power and control in the twenty-first century, it was published by Penguin RandomHouse in August 2018.


Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is Simon Fraser University's Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media in the School of Communication. She has studied both Systems Design Engineering and English Literature, which she combines and mutates in her current work on digital media. She is author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT 2011), Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT 2016), and co-author of Pattern Discrimination (University of Minnesota + Meson Press 2019). She has been Professor and Chair of the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, where she worked for almost two decades and where she’s currently a Visiting Professor. She has also been a Visiting Scholar at the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania, Member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and she has held fellowships from: the Guggenheim, ACLS, American Academy of Berlin, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She has been a Visiting Professor at AI Now at NYU, the Velux Visiting Professor of Management, Politics and Philosophy at the Copenhagen Business School; the Wayne Morse Chair for Law and Politics at the University of Oregon, Visiting Professor at Leuphana University (Luneburg, Germany), and a Visiting Associate Professor in the History of Science Department at Harvard, of which she is an Associate.


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