Engineering Consent in the Digital Age

So I’m writing a paper for a class I took, the Social Life of the Modern Fact (It’s as ambiguous a class as its title indicates). After reading the Engineering of Consent in my Intro Sociology class, I decided to update Bernays‘ theory to the 21st century that we live in today. I realized that would be a monumental task, so I narrowed the subject to Google (which, really, isn’t much more narrow).

I’m not done writing- the paper is due tomorrow at 1pm, and I’m about halfway there. Here’s the introduction- I’ll post the final product when I’m done.

Engineering Consent in the Digital Age

            Humans pride themselves in their individuality. Especially today, the age of social justice glorifies human uniqueness as our most inherent and precious commodity. Similarly, many humans define themselves by their beliefs, passions, and possessions. Of course, more than one individual on Earth enjoys the Red Hot Chili Peppers, drinking Gatorade, and books by Oliver Sacks; however most of us would claim that we individually choose to develop interests. In 1947, Edward Bernays proposed the theory of Engineering Consent. This brief but powerful article details the authoritative role that markets and outside influences have on our individual preferences and beliefs. Since then, a host of work has been published reinforcing Bernays’ theory. I wish to specifically examine how Google, both as a search engine and as an information emporium, has changed the way that humans think, act, and identify with beliefs. Has Google made people lazy? Smarter? How does Google engineer our consent today? Is Google’s increasingly ubiquitous hold on the global flow of information contributing to our individual freedom or further controlling our thoughts and actions? Through the analysis of many sources, I will attempt to elucidate Google’s role in modern society.

Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions?

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