Informing the debate about human rights, one tweet at a time

On Thursday, October 24, UNSW media law lecturer Daniel Joyce and Generation Y representative Lyndon Goddard debated the question of whether social media undermines informed discussion about human rights issues. These new forms of media - such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube - are particularly popular with Gen Y, and as the world's future leaders, it is they who ought to be especially knowledgeable about and engaged in some of the most important matters facing the globe. It has been suggested, however, that the manner in which information is conveyed by social media is superficial and stylized to grab attention, with the effect that the consumer is unable to form a nuanced opinion or, worse, is at risk of developing an erroneous one.

With the debate having been introduced and contextualized by AHRC Director Andrea Durbach, Daniel Joyce and Lyndon Goddard each spent ten minutes seeking to persuade the audience that social media is either a crucial new frontier in human knowledge or the death knell for deep thinking and personal engagement in current affairs. The speeches covered a wide range of flashpoints in social media discourse, such as Kony 2012, the Arab Spring and academics such as Malcolm Gladwell and Evgeny Morozov.

After a Q & A session with the audience and concluding statements from the speakers, an audience vote was taken and - perhaps reflecting the healthy Gen Y contingent present - Lyndon Goddard was named the 'winner' of the debate. The 'prize', appropriately, was a vintage telephone.