Pitzer College 2018-19 Lecture Series Explores Social Perception

First up: “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy”

MCSI Fall 2018 Lecture Series: Perception in a Social WorldClaremont, Calif. (August 30, 2018)—Pitzer College’s Munroe Center for Social Inquiry (MCSI) 2018-19 speakers series, “Perception in a Social World: Sensing Others and Seeing Ourselves,” will illuminate what it means to be social and sentient in today’s world. The series, which starts on September 17, 2018, and runs through February 19, 2019, hosts award-winning scholars and writers who will explore our evolving understanding of social perception.

“As social beings, we are always thinking about others and wondering what they think about us,” said Pitzer Professor of Philosophy Brian Keeley, MCSI’s 2018-19 director. “The speakers in this series are on the cutting-edge of new ways of thinking about social perception, from how it has evolved in primates to understanding its role in our social engagement with one another—online or ‘in real life.’”

Media theorist and cultural historian Siva Vaidhyanathan

The series kicks off on Monday, September 17, with media theorist and cultural historian Siva Vaidhyanathan’s talk “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy,” which proposes this premise:

“If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energize hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine respectable journalism, foster doubts about science and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook,” writes Vaidhyanathan.

Vaidhyanathan, who is the Robertson Professor of Modern Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, borrowed his talk’s title from his most recent book, Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy. His speech is this year’s MCSI Atherton Lecture, named in honor of Pitzer’s first president, John Atherton, and his wife, Virginia Atherton.

Vaidhyanathan is the first of half a dozen speakers who will shed light on social perception from a variety of perspectives–ranging from philosophy and neuroscience to jurisprudence and science fiction–over the course of the series. The other Perception in a Social World talks are:

  • 10.09.18: “Unconscious Bias: The Social Construction of Black Criminals” by Jody David Armour, University of Southern California
  • 10.16.18: “Normative Cognition in Great Apes” by Kristin Andrews, York University
  • 11.06.18: “Race and the Brain: Insights from the neural systems of emotion and decisions” by Elizabeth Phelps, Harvard University
  • 12.04.18: “How We understand Others” by Shannon Spaulding, Oklahoma State University
  • 02.19.19: A talk by Ted Chiang, award-winning science fiction writer

Each year, the Munroe Center for Social Inquiry speaker series is dedicated to the pursuit of interdisciplinary learning and public inquiry embodied by the lives and service of Pitzer founding faculty members Robert “Lee” Munroe and Ruth Hagberg Munroe.

About Pitzer College

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