Yesterday, I recorded a podcast interview with Professor Heath Brown, “New Books in Political Science.”
(It’ll be posted in a couple of weeks. I hope you will check it out.)
Though the focus of our discussion was my study of suburbs, shopping malls, free expression, and the “public forum,” we touched on the issue of virtual space–i.e., social media and the internet.
Prof. Brown raised an interesting point about commercial websites, such as Amazon. He wondered whether these kinds of virtual spaces, specifically, their review pages and bulletin boards, will become the new sites for expression by those who wish to harm and then hide behind their First Amendment protections.
In fact, we are once again wondering and worrying aloud about this sort of question on college campuses, where words that wound appear to be enjoying a resurgence, and where “academic freedom” is being confronted by bolder challenges in an increasingly polarized society.
Will Amazon and commercial sites like it become the new places of hate speech? It’s a question I’ve yet to consider in-depth. As my book suggests, there are reasonable suspicions about the value and staying power of virtual space, at least vis-a-vis embodied space (what I’m in the habit of calling “meat space”).
Still, there may be some sort of meat on this bone, so the work to understand it should continue.
If you happen to be reading this blog, then I welcome your comments on these and other questions.