2018 Keynote – Prof. Karine Nahon

Challenging Democracies: From Zuckerberg to Trump and beyond

photo credit: Adi Cohen Zedek

Abstract: The last couple of years have provided us with ample examples of biased information flows and structures of networks. For example, the fast-spread disinformation at times of elections, the homophilious tweak of the newsfeed by Facebook, and manipulation of bots by politicians. Can we, scholars, evade the simple and shallow technological determinism, and the dichotomy of optimism/pessimism? Can we draw a more complex picture about the challenges democracies face and how these biases impact the democratic system? In this talk, I analyze inequalities and biases in participation, representation and intermediation in democratic regimes, while taking into account the power struggles over hegemony of platforms, governments, collectives and individuals on (and via) social media and Internet. With such a dynamic ecosystem, virality has a unique role, as a force that challenges prevailing power dynamics in society, and at the same time perpetuates inequalities.

Bio:  Karine Nahon is the elected president of the Israel Internet Association (ISOC-IL), an Associate Professor of Information Science in the Lauder School of Government and Ofer School of Communications at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya (IDC), Israel, and an Affiliated Associate Professor in the Information School at University of Washington (UW). Previously, she held a tenured position as a faculty at the Information School at University of Washington. She directed the Virality of Information (retroV) research group, and directed the Center for Information & Society at University of Washington. In 2017, Nahon was named #24 on Forbes’ list of 50 Most Influential Women in Israel, and on the list of the 100 most influential people on digital of the Israeli Digital Association.

Using interdisciplinary lenses, her research focuses on politics of information, and information politics. More specifically, she studies power dynamics and network gatekeeping in social media, and the role of virality and information flows in elections and in politics in general. Professor Nahon is the author of the book Going Viral 2013 (co-authored with Jeff Hemsley). The book received the ASIS&T Best Information Science Book Award, The American Library Association Outstanding Academic Titles.  She has published over 80 research papers in her area in top-tier journals like JASIS&T, ARIST, JCMC, IJoC, ICS and TIS. Since 2013 she serves as the co-chair of the Digital and Social Media track at HICSS.

In addition to her academic role, she also helps shape information policy and promote transparency through leadership roles on national and international bodies. Currently, she is a board member of Wikimedia, the Freedom of Information Movement. In the past she was a member of the Chief Information Office (CIO) Cabinet and represented Israel in the UN in the committee for science and technology.

2017 Keynotes

Title: The Reckoning for Social Media

Abstract: Lee Rainie will discuss new research about how citizens are trying to navigate the  challenging world of “fake news” and “truthiness” on social media. He will look at how people are trying to adjust to the turmoil over the impact of social media on political deliberation and what this means about the concepts of “expertise” and “trust.”we don’t need to do for each paper. (Link to Slides)

Lee Rainie is the director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which has studied the social impact of digital technologies since 2000. He gives several dozen speeches a year to government officials, media leaders, scholars and students, technology executives, librarians, and non-profit groups about the changing media ecosystem. He also regularly interviewed by major news organizations about technology trends. Rainie is a co-author of Networked: The New Social Operating System and five books about the future of the Internet that are drawn from Pew Internet research. Prior to launching the Pew Internet Project, he was managing editor of U.S. News & World Report.

Title: War in the World Brain

Abstract: In 1937, H.G. Wells wrote an essay entitled the “World Brain,” in which he forecast a permanent encyclopedia accessible to all citizens of the earth simultaneously.  Should such a permanent encyclopedia every come to fruition, Wells predicted, it would dissolve all human conflict into unity.  Clearly, Wells’ assumptions were misguided.  While we have indeed created the basis for a world encyclopedia accessible by most everyone on Earth, the foundation for it is under assault.  Governments now routinely censor access to Internet resources using sophisticated censorship and deep-packet inspection systems. A vast architecture of planetary-wide surveillance has been constructed, borne out of the complementary interests of big business and Big Brother. Civil society organizations face an epidemic of targeted digital attacks from their adversaries. Heavily financed and well resourced resourced state-backed “influence operations” poison the well of the public sphere with propaganda. Drawing from the research of the Citizen Lab (, I outline why and how digital technologies are contributing to and reinforcing human conflict and division, and then suggest some strategies to mitigate these trends.

Ron Deibert, (OOnt, PhD, University of British Columbia) is Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary research and development laboratory working at the intersection of the digital technologies, global security, and human rights. He was a co-founder and a principal investigator of the OpenNet Initiative (2003-2014) and Information Warfare Monitor (2003-2012) projects. Deibert was one of the founders and (former) VP of global policy and outreach for Psiphon, one of the world’s leading digital censorship circumvention services. 

Past #SMSociety Keynotes

  • Helen Kennedy
    2016 Keynote Speaker
    Professor of Digital Society, University of Sheffield, UK
  • Susan Halford
    2016 Keynote Speaker
    Director, Web Science Institute, University of Southampton, UK
  • William H. Dutton
    2015 Keynote Speaker
    Professor of Media and Information, Director Quello Center, Michigan State University
  • John Weigelt
    2014 Keynote Speaker
    Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Microsoft Canada
  • Keith N. Hampton
    2014 Keynote Speaker
    Associate Professor, School of Communication and Information, Rutgers University.
  • Sharad Goel
    2013 Keynote
    Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research
  • Gilad Lotan
    2012 Keynote
    Chief Data Scientist, Betaworks
  • Caroline Haythornthwaite
    2011 Keynote
    Director & Professor, The iSchool, University of British Columbia.
  • Barry Wellman
    2010 Keynote
    The S.D. Clark Professor of Sociology, Director Netlab, University of Toronto