David Lazer is a University distinguished professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Sciences. He is also the founding co-director of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks at the Northeastern University. It’s been years since Lazer has been studying about different ways how the technology shapes democracy in the United States and his findings are bad news. Political polarisation is on the rise, trust in the media is down, and the inequalities in income and wealth are more drastic than they’ve been in at least the last 40 years.
Lazer has some suggestions to the above problems. Based on a series of experiments, he and two other researchers describe in a new book called Politics with the People: Building a Directly Representative Democracy, their recommendations. He believes that politicians should meet with citizens in online town hall-style meetings in order to engage a constituency that is increasingly entrenched in one political camp or another, and that is being served up information based on algorithms rather than by traditional, trustworthy news sources. Lazer found a study which stated that 0.1% of users shared 80% of the fake news that circulated on Twitter. Thus, to stop the spread of fake news, social media companies may need to limit how frequently its users are allowed to post.
Recently, based on his work, he has been named a 2019 Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, an organisation created by Congress to provide non-partisan expert advice for building more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organisations within government.
Again, Lazer says he expects that he will be asked to join “various projects” related to technology and democracy for the academy. He is one of 51 people inducted into the academy this year. A formal ceremony will take place in Arlington, Virginia, in November.
“I am very pleased to welcome David Lazer to the 2019 class of Fellows,” said Terry Gerton, who is president and chief executive officer of the National Academy of Public Administration. “Our Fellows are nationally recognized for their expertise and contributions to the field of public administration, and David is no exception.”
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman