AUDIO: Is it possible to have civil online conversations?

A Berkshire Argus Podcast discussion with Jon Rosen, founder of an online discussion group called "Fair Game." What inspired him to start it in 2016, how it's going, and what he's learned.

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Is it possible to have a thoughtful, constructive conversation about important issues, including politics, in a social media comment thread? About any issue?

In 2016, Jon Rosen, fresh off his Ph.D. studies in philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, started a Facebook discussion group called Fair Game, where members engage in conversations about a variety of subjects, from politics, to religion, to arts and culture, to just about any topic at all. He hoped it would provide “a forum for genuine inquiry and respectful dialogue.” And it’s fascinating to hear what happened—and what he’s learned.

At a time when nearly a quarter of Americans believe that violence is an acceptable strategy to advance their political beliefs, it’s worth trying to understand this breakdown in communication that many feel is a runaway train that can only lead to disaster for American democracy. It’s unclear if it’s the technology that’s driving what’s happening, or those who populate our public sphere, or some combination. In the worst case, the two are locked in a feedback-loop death-spiral.

As Rosen says during this episode, “Once we’ve given up on discussion, we have given up on the greatest gift of humanity, which is our capacity to reason and our capacity to understand each other.”

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