The insidious power of social media in the contemporary world

Director, Jeff Orlowski and writers Coombe and Curtis’ (2020) Netflix docu-drama, The Social Dilemma offers an eye-opening critique of the insidious power of social media in the contemporary world.

In 400-500 words (2-3) solid paragraphs, respond to the prompts below. Creatively title and subtitle your piece. YOU MUST ANSWER #3 and #4 + any (1) additional prompt!

(1) Why “dilemma” in its title? What is the dilemma that Orlowski, Coombe and Curtis are trying to point us to? How is it social? How is it also electronic? What is the film’s main argument?

(2) Whereas the literature, scholarship and popular sentiment of the early ’80s and ’90s (the arrival moment of Jobs, Gates, Bezos and others)—pointed toward utopic futures full of the potential and possibility that personal computing and the internet could deliver, Orlowski, Coombe and Curtis take a very different tack in their critique of the impact of this current era of Zuckberg, Dorsey, Systrom and others— a moment little more than a generation later. What went wrong? Where did the euphoria go? Do you buy the filmmakers’ critique? Is the Social Dilemma an overstatement of the contemporary moment? Are its chief commentators little more than jilted ex-industry moguls, they at least partially responsible for our current situation? Are the films skits over-dramatizations of the moment?

(3) Draw (2) of the most compelling/engaging moments/narrative turning points from the film. Explain why these are the most moving to you. What insights do these moments offer you? Cite the names of documentary commentators/experts that you draw on as best you can.

(4) Quote generously from the Stefania Milan article below, the David Elrich film review as well as directly from film commentators and characters to make your case! Be sure to cite (in-text only) the names of commentators, characters, authors and filmmakers your draw from in your response.

(5) What according to commentator, Shoshanna Zuboff is is surveillance capitalism? What are algorithms and how are they used to mobilize user-data? How are algorithms a potential threat to the human interests of real individuals and communities? How do algorithms impact our ability to discern disinformation, truth and facts?

(6) Compare and contrast the central themes of BBC’s How Facebook Changed the World (social media and the Arab Spring module) with The Social Dilemma.

The Social Dilemma:

On Netflix:




(3) How news feed algorithms supercharge confirmation bias | Eli Pariser | Big Think

Jaron Lanier interview on how social media ruins your life Jaron Lanier interview on how social media ruins your life

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