The Rhyme and Rhythm of Democracy - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
Close Menu

The Rhyme and Rhythm of Democracy

Event will take place 7pm on Thursday, Feb. 2. Event to be held at Tyrell Hall at the University of Tulsa.

“The Rhyme and Rhythm of Democracy: Why Fact-checking, Media Literacy, and a Knowledgeable Electorate are Not Enough”

Since 2016 those who are concerned about the health of American democracy have been lamenting the easy spread and amplification of bogus claims, vast conspiracy theories, and massive lies through media both social and traditional. This concern is necessary but insufficient. Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan’s talk will argue that pro-democracy Americans must also rediscover the poetry and music of democracy — the stirring rhymes and rhythms. From Walt Whitman to Woody Guthrie to Aaron Copland to Nina Simone to Bruce Springsteen, American democracy has been moved and expanded by stirring appeals to community and humanity, solidarity and freedom. As we rush into a world governed by data and computer code, committed to raw utilitarianism, this talk argues for a revival of more humane American values that could generate better visions and conversations about the America we can build.

Vaidhyanathan’s previous works include Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy, The Googlization of Everything and Why We Should Worry, and The Anarchist in the Library. In one way or another, these works investigate the negative impacts of various technological advancements such as social media websites, search engines and algorithms, and mass data collection and storage. His work serves as a warning, as a diagnosis of dangerous patterns and trends that can harm individuals, their relationships with others, and the community at large. What does freedom and responsibility mean in our digital information age? What dangers does the internet pose to both the ideals and realities of freedom? What possibilities does it enable as the nation continues to strive towards freedom and fairness for all? Join us for what promises to be a fascinating discussion on these issues and one possible solution rooted in the arts and humanities: a return to “the poetry and music of democracy.”

Siva Vaidhyanathan is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. Vaidhyanathan directs the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, which hosts a Democracy Lab, produces  several podcasts, and the Virginia Quarterly Review magazine. He has appeared in an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to discuss early social network services. Vaidhyanathan has appeared in several documentary films, including Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013), Inside the Mind of Google (2009), and Freedom of Expression (2007). Vaidhyanathan has also written for many periodicals, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, Bloomberg View, American Scholar, Dissent, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington Post,, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Nation.