25 January 2022

Dr Tony Sampson, a reader at the University of East London, will deliver a talk on the role social media has played in the global rise of populist politics on Friday, January 28, to the Infoscope Research Lab at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

The invitation follows the 2020 publication of Dr Sampson's book, A Sleepwalker's Guide To Social Media which "explores cultural and political aspects of digital infrastructures".

Dr Sampson, a reader in digital cultures and communications at the School of Arts and Creative Industries, said, "In 2012, I published a book on digital virality: Virality, Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks. It explores how sentiments and ideas appear to spread on a network as part of a contagious collective dynamic.

"This new book updates the virality thesis for the social media age. For the most part, it explores the role social media seem to have played in the global rise of populist politics, alongside the spreading of race hate and violence from about 2015 onwards.  

"The book came out in 2020 during the first lockdown, so although it doesn't capture the pandemic, it does speak to the kind of panic and anti-vax contagions currently spreading on social media."

Dr Sampson has written a number of books and articles that address digital culture and media technology and is regularly invited to talk about these publications around the globe. His talk to the Infoscope Research Lab on Friday will be delivered online from 4pm to 6pm (GMT).

Speaking about the event, Dr Sampson said: "In this talk I'm addressing what is sometimes called the experience industry and the part it plays in producing the infrastructures and environments for digital contagion.

"I'm interested in re-theorising the experience of digital media as it becomes increasingly automated by 'more-than-human' artificial intelligence and algorithmic platforms that encourage contagion without seeming to care about the political and cultural consequences.

"I argue that the focus should not be on individual user experiences. Thus, the sleepwalker of the title, which doesn't mean individual zombie-like smartphone users, but rather points to a 'more-than-human' collective hypnosis."

Dr Tony Sampson's talk on A Sleepwalker's Guide To Social Media, Friday, January 28. If you would like to attend, register via the link.

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