Public Event – Holly Lawford-Smith

What can we know about unorganized social groups?
Public Deliberation, digital technologies, and ignorance

Very recently, two petitions/letters circulated online. The first was called ‘#GWithTheT’ initiated by Anthony Watson, the lead LGBT advisor to the UK Labour Party. It was Watson’s attempt to create a version of #LWithTheT (lesbians with trans) for gay men (gay men with trans). Watson’s original letter had 73 signatories, all gay men. The second petition/letter, called ‘We Support Women’, was created by another gay man, Rafael D. Quiles, who self-describes as ‘a barely employed Puerto Rican brown-skinned gay man, who lives on an island threatened by hurricanes and unpaid debt’. It argued that the men who had signed Watson’s letter did so ‘to the detriment of women and girls’. This petition has 1,238 signatures (as of 19th March 2019), although was not limited to gay men. So what do gay men think about the combination of sexual orientation and gender identity issues under the umbrella of the LGBT? These petitions and their associated hashtags tell us very little. Gay men are not an organized social group, and online platforms distort information in a way that makes it very hard to get a sense of which views are truly representative.

In this talk, political philosopher Dr. Holly Lawford-Smith will discuss the promise of Twitter as a platform for global, nearly-egalitarian public debate; some of the ways the platform creates and conduces to ignorance and misinformation; and what, if anything, we might do about it.

Dr. Holly Lawford-Smith is Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy at the University of Melbourne and is also an Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Philosophy, and an Editorial Board member for the Journal of Political Philosophy.