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Essay Prompts on LikeWar by Emerson T. Brooking and P. W. Singer

Essay 1

There are different prompts but you can choose only 1 whichever is easiest. There is no rubric just as long as the essay relates to the prompt.

For Ch. 7, go to p. 182, para. three that begins, "In 1990 ..." and read to the end of the paragraph following the block quote, middle of p. 183, “… without firing a shot.”

Analyze your experiences using social media and the internet; provide at least three examples, in detail, of times when you encountered online information being used as a weapon, “used to dismantle some realities and to build others in their place” (183).

Note that this prompt, more than any other offered to you this semester, deals with the thesis of Singer and Brooking’s LikeWar.

Chapter 8 presents an ever-increasing anxiety social media users seem to be experiencing about their use of the Internet and social media. The computer algorithms that can create neural networks are “only as moral as their users” (252). Thus, neural networks can imitate human speech, alter audio files, and essentially “This technology might also be used to alter the present or future” (254). Indeed, a senior technology advisor at the U. S. State Department suggests (in the authors’ words) that “as machines steer our ideas and culture in an automated, evolutionary process that we no longer understand, they will ‘start programming us’” (256).

As a user of social media and the internet, do you see evidence now of machines (and their algorithms) now “manipulat[ing] all we see and how we think online” (256)? How can you deal with this possibility of the “machines [coming] to manipulate all [you] see and how [you] think online” (256)? Do you have a defense against “the machines”?

Ch. 9, Conclusion: Singer and Brooking assert that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google “must also break the code of silence that pervades [their] own culture” and “abandon the pretense that they are merely ‘neutral’ platform providers” (268) by “proactively [considering] the political, social, and moral ramifications [results] of their services” (269).

Do you agree with the authors that social media companies’ platforms provide sites for “Bigots, racists, violent extremists and professional trolls [who] do not have to be accorded the respect as [that given] marginalized people and democratic states” (269) and that “these companies have a responsibility to encourage their platforms’ users to understand how and why [misinformation] worked [and works] against them” (269)?

Essay 2

If you agree with the authors’ statement, cite at least three examples of the behavior the authors describe. Then consider this question and respond in your essay: what are your personal responsibilities as a user of social media?

There are different prompts but you can choose only 1 whichever is easiest. There is no rubric just as long as the essay relates to the prompt.

For Ch. 5, go to P. 122, second line, "Harvard law professor…” and re-read to the end of the block quote, continuing the rest of p. 122, then to p. 123, para. 4, starting at “This phenomenon is called ‘homophile’” to the top of p. 124, first two lines.

In your use of social media, to what degree do you think you have lived in the "filter bubble”? That is, to what degree do you think you have joined a group of people “thinking the same thing that they [and you] have thought before—but in more extreme form”? How would you define your “filter bubble”? How has living in it been made more difficult by homophily?

On p. 137, read paragraph 3, "The human brain ...." and critique the middle school student's remarks. What have your own experiences in your use of social media, and the Internet generally, demonstrated to you about social media and the Internet being places where “If it’s going viral, it must be true”?

How have you been able—or not been able—to deal with the authors’ contention that “On the internet, virality is inseparable from reality”? Note that "to go viral, it must be unusual and surprising. In a word… disruptive ... viral content may appeal to our emotions, it may be fun and original, or it may contain never-before-seen images or ideas".

For Ch. 6, "Win the Net, Win the Day," go to pp. 156-7 and start reading with the last paragraph on p. 156, “in other words …” and read over to its end on p. 157. Read also the first sentence of the next paragraph; then go to page 158, the second indention that begins, “The challenge now…” and read the paragraph.

Note especially the sentence, “The first rule is simplicity.” Next, go to p. 159 and read the second complete paragraph on the page; it begins, “The second rule of narrative is resonance.” Finally, go to p. 160 and read the second paragraph, the second indention that begins, “The third and final rule of narrative is novelty.”

Think of your own "narrative" as you have created it on social media. How do you "perceive [yourself] and others, and the environment around [you]"? What story or stories "bind the small [events in your life] to the large," connecting personal experience "to some bigger notion of how the world works"?

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