The Social Net(works?) Friendship, Community, and the Social Media Revolution
This event is free and open to all. Find us on Facebook or visit http://www.veritas.org/oxford
Watch our short video clip here -
Veritas Forums are university events that engage students and faculty in discussions about life’s hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life.
Robin Dunbar is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford (Magdelen College) and Director of the School of Anthropology’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1998 and is co-director of the British Academy’s Centenary Research Project ‘Lucy to Language: The Archaeology of the Social Brain’. His principal research interest is the evolution of sociality, and he is involved in a number of ongoing projects that include research into the nature of social bonding as well as the structure and dynamics of social networks in humans and other mammals.
Jenny Rutherford is Head of Strategic Marketing for IMVU, Inc. Previously, she served as Vice President of Marketing at Oodle, an online classifieds marketplace that combines e-Commerce with social media, where she managed Oodle’s exclusive partnership with Facebook Marketplace, one of Facebook’s top business applications. Her career includes building and launching businesses for Facebook, social commerce, virtual marketplaces, social 3D gaming, as well as other consumer and enterprise products.
Graham Ward is Fergusson Professor of Philosophical Theology and Ethics at The University of Manchester, and head of its School of Arts, Histories and Cultures. His current research encompasses Christian social ethics, political theory and cultural hermeneutics, and he is the co-director of the Centre for Religion and Political Culture in Manchester. His research interests encompass Christian social ethics, political theory and cultural hermeneutics.
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We are online, but are we in touch?
Mark Zuckerberg promotes Facebook as helping to create a more open and connected world. Openness for Zuckerberg is about “more transparency, being able to share things and have a voice in the world,” while connection is “helping people to stay in touch and maintain empathy for each other.” On this view social networking furthers human development, solidarity of friendship and community, and civic participation.
But others disagree. For instance, Zadie Smith questions the quality of the connections and relationships fostered through social media. In a recent article, Smith points out that for Zuckerberg, “Connection is the goal. The quality of that connection, the quality of the information that passes through it, the quality of the relationship that connection permits—none of this is important.” Similarly, in a survey on the future of online socialising, The Pew Forum found a common concern among respondents about whether we are fostering shallow relationships based on minimal cost and time. Malcom Gladwell also raises a related concern. Focusing on the approach of the community to civic participation, he argues that social network “activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.”
These concerns are fundamental, stemming from the human need for friendship and community, and resonate deeply with the Christian faith – which holds that relationships rest on a foundation of love, in the image of the perfect love of Christ. This year’s Veritas Forum at Oxford will examine these human needs, asking: What is community? What is friendship? And how are they affected by social media? The event will be a dialogue among leading academics and commentators on the social media revolution, discussing these issues and the relevance for this of the Christian tradition. We are online, but are we in touch?