Information Gerrymandering and Undemocratic Decisions

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A Frontiers in Science Lecture by Joshua Plotkin, University of Pennsylvania


Many Americans receive their news and form political opinions through social media. But social media platforms are not shaping up to be the utopian spaces for human connection their founders once hoped. Instead, the Internet has introduced phenomena that can influence national elections and even threaten democracy. This talk will describe recent findings on "information gerrymandering” — how the structure of a social network can profoundly bias collective decisions. Evidence of these effects is found in large-scale human experiments, real-world social-media networks, and networks of legislative actions in the US Congress. These results motivate questions about policy.

About Joshua Plotkin

Joshua Plotkin is the Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor of Natural Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, where he co-directs the Penn Center for Mathematical Biology.  Professor Plotkin is an applied mathematician with appointments in the Departments of Biology, Mathematics, and Computer and Information Sciences. His work leverages mathematical models of populations as a framework for understanding broad patterns of biological, cultural, and social evolution. 

About Frontiers in Science Lectures

Lectures in this series are intended to inform, engage, and inspire students, faculty, staff, and the public on developments, breakthroughs, and topics of general interest in the sciences and mathematics. Lecturers tailor their talks for nonexpert audiences.




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