Courtesy of David Lazer

David Lazer's accomplishments are singular in their breadth, from serving as a visiting scholar at Harvard University to running projects for the Lazer Lab.

October 16, 2019

How Has the Internet Shaped Democracy? Northeastern Prof to Tackle Ties in Statler Talk

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On Oct. 24, Prof. David Lazer, academic expert on technology and politics in the digital age, will speak about how the Internet is influencing modern democracy and what can people do online to support democracy. Lazer teaches political science and computer and information science at Northeastern University, and is a visiting scholar at Harvard University.

Lazer has co-authored many papers on the intersection of politics and the internet.

Cornell’s Center for Social Sciences will host the talk. Since 2016, CCSS has invited a renowned scholar to speak about one “critical social issue” to the whole Ithaca community in its annual Distinguished Lecture in the Social Sciences.

Prof. Matthew Desmond, sociology, Princeton University, was the first scholar to be invited in 2016, followed by Prof. Dorothy Roberts, Africana studies, sociology and law, University of Pennsylvania in 2017.

Last semester, Prof. Mahzarin Banaji, psychologist, a professor at Harvard University, delivered a talk on “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People.”

CCSS will also start its new Algorithms & Inequality Series next month, hosted by the center’s Algorithms, Big Data, and Inequality collaborative project team. The new lecture series focuses on bringing about the most pressing social issues of the time.

Prof. Peter Enns, government, CCSS co-director, told The Sun that the subject of social media, misinformation and fake news piques the interest of a broad cross-section of people — not only Cornellians, but also the general public from Ithaca and the surrounding community. This swelling interest in modern media ultimately led to Lazer’s invitation.

“This particular topic is very hot right now, it’s something everybody will be able to relate to in some way or another,” Prof. Sahara Byrne, communication, CCSS co-director, told The Sun.

Lazer’s research centers around social networks, technology and communication. Alongside his academic work, he also serves in several leadership roles including board member for the International Network of Social Network Analysts. Other projects in his lab include Volunteer Science and VisPolics.

His lecture aims to inspire the community to think more deeply about the role technology plays in our democracy today, according to Enns.

The talk will be held in Statler Auditorium in Statler Hall and will start at 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and will be followed by a public reception from 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Statler Hotel Carrier Ballroom.