Niall Ferguson’s Networld

(Rochester, NY) – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok… social networking platforms continue to grow, connecting people and spreading information instantly on a global level. Early Silicon Valley idealism of creating a connected world has faded. Today these platforms are a source of anxiety – with fake news and extreme views on social media networks, the manipulation of public opinion in another election year, data security breaches and information wars all causing alarm. Historian and author Niall Ferguson explains why that shouldn’t have surprised us in the new three-part documentary series Niall Ferguson’s Networld, premiering Tuesday, March 17 from 8-11 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

Niall explores the centuries-old origin story of social networking and argues that understanding the networks of the past can provide insight into what’s happening today and what may happen in the future. Inspired by his bestselling book “The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook” (Penguin Books), Ferguson combines history and network science to demonstrate how changes in technology can dramatically increase the power of social networks relative to established hierarchies.

From the Reformation and the 17th-century witch craze, through the American Revolution and the nightmare visions of Orwell’s “1984,” Ferguson explores the intersection of social media, technology and the spread of cultural movements. In each of the one-hour episodes, he unpacks how social networks operate through conversations with network theorists, social scientists and data analysts and historical examples, such as the commonalities between railroad and telegraph titan Jay Gould, publishing giant William Randolph Hearst and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Interviewees include Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO and executive chairman; Antonio Garcia Martinez, The New York Times bestselling author, tech entrepreneur and former Facebook product manager; Stanley McChrystal, former head of Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq; Alex Stamos, former head of security at Facebook; and many more. 

Pictured: Niall Ferguson in front of Networld graphic of globe.
Credit: Courtesy of © Chimerica Media Ltd

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