Disagreement in the Digital Age

Streaming Media


Michael Barnes, Postdoctoral Associate with the Rotman Institute of Philosophy at Western University reflects on his recently completed, two week course in which students focused on the problems—and potential—presented by online communication platforms. Specifically, the class set out to consider the conditions—material, political, technological—that encourage productive discussion and disagreement, and those that undermine it. They examined the value of open communication and disagreement in both a theoretical way—by reading and reflecting on philosophical texts—and in a practical way—by experimenting with diverse discussion formats, online and IRL. The aim throughout was to assess the (in)compatibility of novel communication platforms with the communicative values we currently hold.

One of the main aims of this class was to engage in reflection about how discussion and disagreement can go well, and why they (often) do not. To that end, we were continuously trying different mediums of communication in order to better understand the structural, material, and normative constraints each mode makes salient. This class, therefore, may be considered an experiment in learning. We were all co-investigators as we set out to uncover how technology might aid or impede the promotion of interesting and productive philosophy discussions. At the same time, by engaging in sustained reflection on this topic, we examined our own communicative habits—both online and IRL—in a new light.

This presentation was given on July 11, 2022, for the Hamilton College Summer Program in Philosophy held in Clinton, New York.

Type of Work


Event Name

Hamilton College Summer Program in Philosophy

Event Sponsor

Philosophy Department, Hamilton College

Event Location

Clinton, NY, USA

Presentation Date


Hamilton Areas of Study


Hamilton Scholarship Series

Hamilton College Summer Program in Philosophy

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