APLA at AAA 2018: Anthropology Confronts the Trolls

Technology, New Media, and Cyber Activism in the Age of Disinformation

APLA and PoLAR are pleased to announce our special event at the 117th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association! Join us at the San Jose Women’s Club on November 15th at 7:15pm for drinks, snacks, and a panel discussion with Gabriella Coleman (McGill), Joan Donovan (Data & Society), James Holston (UC Berkeley), and Graeme Wood (The Atlantic), moderated by Louisa Lombard (Yale).

Technology and new media have become central players in the politics of our age, but they have a double edge. The Arab Spring inspired many to believe in the possibilities of a “Twitter Revolution,” but the age of Trump has brought the anti-democratic whims and caprices of a “Twitter Presidency.” Hackers have revealed acts of government surveillance (like the NSA), but they have also threatened the credibility of elections everywhere from Kenya to the USA. On the one hand, activists across the globe have used social media to mobilize for justice and progressive political change. Alternative media sites have promised to undercut the juggernaut of corporate media, and social media platforms have enabled real-time citizen reporting from the frontlines of social movements, often undercutting the censors of repressive regimes. On the other hand, media trolls use many of these same tools to undermine the ethical standards of journalism and undercut the legal and social foundations of an independent, fair, and impartial press.

Furthermore, despite their capacity to offer alternatives to corporate media, most technological media platforms are also powerful corporations. New technologies have enabled citizens to monitor and demand accountability from political and economic leaders. For example, cell phone videos have allowed otherwise silenced or disenfranchised citizens to document everything from police brutality in the US to violent land grabs in countries around the world, and to expose everything from cases of environmental pollution to acts of state-sanctioned ethnic violence. But social media platforms like Facebook have been continuously collecting data from their users, and have engendered a proliferation of government surveillance, corporate data mining, and even self-surveillance that makes Orwell’s descriptions of Big Brother seem like a quaint throwback to the 1980s. They have also enabled the diffusion of propaganda on a massive scale in societies that have little or no regulation over private data.

In this special event, held in downtown San Jose, the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology convenes a panel of anthropologists, media activists, journalists, and technology experts to imagine politically conscious and legally savvy pathways through this new media landscape. The contradictions inherent in the utopian promises of social media require new forms of analysis, and anthropologists are poised to contribute to this emergent conversation.

Download a flyer for the event here: Anthropology Confronts the Trolls.

Directions to San Jose Women’s Club:

San Jose Woman’s Club is located at 75 S. 11th St. in downtown San Jose. A small parking lot suitable for vendors, key participants and handicap parking is available onsite.


Screen Shot 2018-10-11 at 6.22.12 PMThe venue is a 1.1 mile walk (approximately 20-25 minutes) from the San Jose Convention Center (directions via link). When exiting the Convention Center turn right (north-east) on E. San Carlos Street. Continue until you reach S. 4th Street, make a left onto S. 4th and walk for one block. When you reach San Fernando St. turn right and continue until you reach S. 11th Street. Make a left onto S. 11th and the Club will be on your left, number 75.

Street parking

On weekends and after 6 p.m. on weekdays, street parking on most streets surrounding the Historic Venue does not require a permit. If you are attending a weekday event at the Venue, parking permits will be available to you when you arrive. Please check the parking area on the permit to ensure the street on which you are parking is included in the permit area.

Garage Parking

Additional parking is available at the SJSU parking garage on the corner of S. 10th and E. San Fernando Streets for a $5.00 flat rate on weekends and after 5:30 on weekdays or $2.00 per hour before 5:30 p.m on weekdays, cash or credit card. You must pre-pay before exit at the machines located on the 3rd Floor and higher and place the permit on your dashboard before exiting the garage.

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