Location: Trinity Long Room Hub

Date: 11 Jul

On the 11th of July 2019, Nolen Gertz an Assistant Professor of Applied Philosophy at the University of Twente and a Senior Researcher at the 4TU. Centre for Ethics and Technology spoke about “The Social (Media) Construction of Truth”. This talk, that took place in the Trinity Long Room Hub with The Adapt Centre was not only engaging but also extremely informative and innovative. Gertz received his PhD in 2012 from the New School for Social Research. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and ABC Australia, and has covered topics ranging from the meaning of military robots to the dangers of Netflix and Chill.


Gertz’s lecture skillfully analysed a variety of philosophers and academics approach to technology, it’s impact on society and how their work and areas of research are still applicable to how media is interpreted and used in our society today. His work focused on areas such as how in 1710, Jonathan Swift claimed that “falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it” and if that is so, then concerns surrounding the dangers to democracy posed by social media platforms seem to have less to do with the nature of the media or of the platforms and more to do with the nature of the social. Gertz analysed academics from Swift to Nietche and how their work apply to the social media world around us.


Gertz’s lecture was not only educational but also enjoyable as he conveyed through the use of an array of statistics, images and “memes” how, Facebook encourages users to constantly post content in order to be social, and to constantly post content likely to get attention in order to remain social, then Facebook encourages users to share attention-grabbing content. He also focused on the controversial area of Facebook users spreading fake news, not because they don’t care about what they are sharing, but because they care about being social, which, thanks to the influence of Facebook, allows them to care about being seen by the algorithm. He analyses how “if we want to remove fake news from social media platforms then we must begin by understanding how these platforms influence us, how these platforms shape what ‘truth’ means”.


Nolen Gertz’s talk concluded with a question and answer session where the audience commented on the talk’s breadth of knowledge and high level of engagement with multiple areas of technology and philosophy. This talk was a mere taste for what is to be inspected in his books Nihilism and Technology (Rowman & Littlefield International 2018), The Philosophy of War and Exile (Palgrave-Macmillan 2014), and of the forthcoming book Nihilism (MIT Press 2019). His other research interests are in the area of philosophy of technology, social and political philosophy, and pop culture.