DiscoverIn RealityHow to Build True Public Spaces Online with Eli Pariser
How to Build True Public Spaces Online with Eli Pariser

How to Build True Public Spaces Online with Eli Pariser

Update: 2022-06-14
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In this episode of In Reality, co-hosts Eric Schurenberg and Joan Donovan are joined by Eli Pariser, co-director of New Public and former president of MoveOn.org. Pariser is a long-time advocate for creating healthy communities online, and he now advocates for reimagining the Internet as a trustworthy public space analogous to local parks or public libraries.

It’s an appealing analogy. Pariser notes that public spaces are critical for holding democratic societies together, spaces where people come together and work through conflict, raise concerns and demands, and share experiences. A key element of physical public spaces is that they are local in scale. 

Some digital spaces share some of that “local” flavor. Reddit, for example, fosters local discussions and debates through multiple domains and communities that have their own moderation. That stands in contrast to platforms like Facebook and Twitter, where there is no visible moderation and information is global in nature, making it hard to develop a sense of community.  

Moderation alone isn’t quite enough, though. Another key element of healthy public spaces is self-governance because it depends on collaboration. Wikipedia is an example of a digital space that offers contributors power checked by governing principles and steered by collaborative norms. Digital “parks” and “libraries” are a distant cry from the barely controlled chaos that has characterized digital spaces to date. But as our civic lives increasingly move online, the need for them is clear. 


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How to Build True Public Spaces Online with Eli Pariser

How to Build True Public Spaces Online with Eli Pariser

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