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Digital Democracy (with Kevin Esterling)

Digital Democracy (with Kevin Esterling)

In this episode, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy Kevin Esterling talks with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about digital democracy and echo chambers.

 
FEATURING Kevin Esterling
April 25th, 2022

42 MINUTES AND 24 SECONDS

 


In this episode, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy Kevin Esterling talks with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about digital democracy and echo chambers.

About Kevin Esterling:

Kevin Esterling is a Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, and the Director of the Laboratory for Technology, Communication, and Democracy (TeCD Lab), at the University of California, Riverside. His research focuses on institutional design for communication in democratic politics, and he has interests in Bayesian statistics, experimental design, and science ethics and validity. His current work focuses on deliberative democracy and the design of technology that leads citizens to engage constructively in public discourse.

Learn more about Kevin Esterling via https://profiles.ucr.edu/app/home/profile/kevine

Podcast Highlights:

“The advantage is that we as individuals don't have to rely so much on intermediaries to express our concern to government.”

-       Kevin Esterling on the advantages of digital democracy. 

“If social media platforms just become a cesspool of misinformation and ideological content, at some people will find it less useful...”

-       Kevin Esterling on the topic of social media and echo chambers.

“Technology is neither good nor bad, it's just how it's designed and how it ends up getting used.”

-       Kevin Esterling pointing out the "gray area" that technology often falls into. 

Guest:

Kevin Esterling (Professor of Political Science and Public Policy)

Interviewers:

Kevin Karami (UCR Public Policy Major, Dean’s Chief Ambassador)

Zeno Marganian (UCR Public Policy Major, Dean’s Ambassador)

 

Music by:

C Codaine

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Xylo-Ziko/Minimal_1625

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Xylo-Ziko/Phase

Commercial Links: https://spp.ucr.edu/ba-mpp

https://spp.ucr.edu/mpp

This is a production of the UCR School of Public Policy: https://spp.ucr.edu/

Subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss an episode. Learn more about the series and other episodes via https://spp.ucr.edu/podcast.

Video

Transcript

  • Transcript

     

    Kevin Karami: Welcome to Policy Chats, the official podcast of the School of Public Policy at the University of California Riverside. I'm your host, Kevin Karmi. Join me and my classmates as we learn about potential policy solutions for today's biggest societal challenges.  Joining us today is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, Kevin Esterling. My fellow classmate Zeno and I chatted with him about digital democracy. Kevin Esterling  is a Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. His research focuses on institutional design for communication in democratic politics, experimental design and science ethics and validity. Professor Esterling, thank you so much for joining us today. 

     

    Professor Esterling: Thanks for having me.

     

    Kevin Karami: I know this is a really interesting topic and this is your bread and butter as a professor. So I want to jump straight into the first question slash topic for our audience. Can you first please briefly describe what digital democracy is and why it's significant for us today?

     

    Professor Esterling:  Yeah, so digital democracy, that -  both of those words have lots of different meanings. And so a lot of times what I've tried to do is to kind of narrow them down to make it so that it's something more manageable for the digital part,  I think people who work in the field of digital democracy are mostly thinking about kind of online web-based communication. So technologies, websites, social media apps, and that sort of thing. And then democracy also can mean a lot of different things. But one thing that's kind of a core thing of modern democracy is that we want - in a democracy - for our government to be responsive to constituents' concerns. And so that should be responsive and kind of represent our interests. But we also want our government to be accountable. And what a lot of times we think about those two is that online communication technology can enhance both of those things. So it makes it easier to hold the government accountable when you have ready access to information about what your legislators are doing and how they're voting, and what actions they took in committees and that kind of thing. Or what bureaucrats are up to and that kind of thing. Having more ready access to information through the web helps to make the government more accountable. But then also, the other aspect of communication technology is it enables us to have a many-to-many communication that just wasn't possible in the past before the current state of the Internet. Nowadays, I could post something on a social media app or a post a video, and it could end up being seen by millions of people. And that was something that really wasn't possible in the early days. That it has the potential to empower ordinary people to be able to speak more effectively to their government because they are scared of a microphone and a voice to speak.

     

    Kevin Karami: Yeah, definitely. I think that one of the interesting parts about it is that point on accountability. I guess off of that point would you say that digital democracy and everything you've described on what it is and its purpose. Was there something before that - that people used to hold our elected officials accountable? Or is this something that is a newer idea that we've kind of delved into in the recent years.

     

    Professor Esterling: So, you can think of again, technology can make government more transparent and more responsive. Are they accessible? We hope that it does. So in terms of making the government more transparent, technology hasn't really revolutionized that kind of sort of how we're able to hold the government accountable. Because pretty much all the information that we needed. Even back in the olden days when I was young, we could still get it. We could still figure out how our members of Congress voted and what they did in committee. It was just harder to get that information, but if you wanted to, you could find it. In that sense. Kind of having that information all online doesn't radically transform the government. But having people able to communicate, enabling individuals to have an effective voice in government is something that's just fundamentally new. And so in the old days - I could write a letter to my member of congress or I could pick up the phone. And when I was a kid, you actually had to dial a rotary phone to call and it was just you or just one person with one voice. Now if I wanted to, I could go online and communicate to the office and in a variety of different ways, but also communicate with my fellow constituents and try to coordinate some action in a way that I wasn't able to and back when individuals really didn't have so much of a voice. Back in the old days, it was sort of the gatekeepers like political parties and elites within a town that were the ones that really had a voice in politics. But now because of new technology and our ability to really, as individuals to speak publicly, that that's really new and it's really transforming how the government functions, I think.

     

    Zeno Marganian:  As you mentioned, kind of like the digital aspect of this day and age and how it's adding this voice, or at least a voice that can be heard by many to individuals within society. What are some of the biggest advantages or disadvantages that comes with that? Like you mentioned, that aspect can hold governments more accountable or can make them more transparent. But is there some form of, has there been aspects of digital democracy that have kind of leaned the other way? 

     

    Professor Esterling: Well, the advantage is that we, as individuals, need to rely so much on intermediaries to express our concern to the government. So again, it used to be if I had a concern, if I wanted my voice to be effective, I'd have to work through a political party or through an interest group or some local elites in order to have my concern expressed effectively to the government. That's changing because I think politicians are attentive to social media. I think it does really empower individuals to have a more effective voice. Then it has a downside and that is, when you have lots of people, lots of individuals with sort of all expressing their own individual views at scale. Members' offices can get really overwhelmed with all of the messaging they get. And so there's people who track the rise of constituent correspondence and the slope looks like that, where offices now are really just overwhelmed with communications from their constituents. And a lot of it is like we're picturing individuals riding their concerns, but a lot of it is generated inorganically by interest groups, getting people to write lots of form letters. And it really, it makes it hard for the office to sort through and figure out what their constituents really think when they're really just overwhelmed with correspondence with a lot of it is not the grassroots correspondence from their constituents, but it's more of correspondence that's been engineered by an interest group. That makes it harder for offices to really use that input, that this new kind of input could be really valuable for offices. But it's because it's done at scale. And when you have everybody that's trying to communicate all at the same time, it's hard for officers to kind of figure out exactly what they should be thinking or listening to based on all of that noise. 

     

    Kevin Karami: So would you say on that point in a lot of ways like interest groups or anyone, that any organization or individual that falls under the umbrella of interest groups are still acting and conducting themselves in a similar way to how they did in the past. They're just doing it through a different medium. 

     

    Professor Esterling: Yeah. 

     

    Kevin Karami: There's a technological aspects.

     

    Professor Esterling: Interest groups always did that. They always engineered letter writing campaigns to offices, particularly membership groups that had lots of members. But if you look at the data, the input that offices are getting, it's just that letter writing campaign, but on steroids and it really overwhelms the capacity of congressional offices. It's really all levels of government, so it's hard for them to make sense of it. 

     

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    Kevin Karami: I guess in a lot of ways that kind of transition slightly into the point because I've seen, and I'm sure we've all seen this that happened on social media. Twitter is a big one where you'll see these interest groups or even sometimes individuals with a huge following kind of direct their followers or the people that subscribe to them to actually go. And as you said, write these letters to an elected official or whatnot. What do you say that social media in that aspect specifically has played a negative role in terms of being able to communicate with your elected officials? 

     

    Kevin Esterling: Yeah. Well, I think the main thing about social media. The same problem occurs that I'm describing is that kind of the problem of communication at scale when you have lots of people who are all talking at once. That also causes problems for the platform, the social media platforms. I think originally people thought of social media as a positive thing for democracy because in the early days when the platforms were relatively small and just getting started, people thought it would be this new way of everybody being able to express their views and express their individuality. People, mostly the people who were kind of the early pioneers of social media applications, thought of it as a positive thing. I think the reason is that they, you know, they knew themselves and their friends and people liked them. And everybody would be interested in contributing in a constructive way to kind of conversations on social media. But what's happened over time, as the platforms have grown, the volume of communication is just too immense for that. So that social media companies really have to kind of curate the content that gets circulated on their platforms just because there's just too much of it circulating. Then at the same time, kind of bad actors have that. Go, go on to social media and exploit vulnerabilities to pursue agendas that are sometimes undemocratic? I think, yeah. Then, then as I think, you know, because of this problem, a scale that social media companies have to make use of algorithms in order to curate the content that users get to see it because it's not possible if you think about, like if you're on Facebook or Twitter and you have hundreds or thousands of friends and they're all posting things. It's just this, it's just a cascade of information that you'd never be able to make sense of. And so, social media companies kinda have to kind of curate that content for you in order to make it useful for you, in order for you to find using the platform useful. But then the way they write the algorithms is in a way to kind of curate the content so that people get information that they like to see that makes them happy and want to return to the platform. And a lot of times, the way they do that is they provide content to users that is consistent with their own predispositions of what they believed to begin with, because that's something that we find attractive. And so the more that they give you information that confirms whatever predisposition you have the more it reinforces those and it leads to extremism on the platform. So that's a downside, I think, to the problem of scale.

     

    Zeno Marganian: So with that kind of mentioning of a confirmation bias, almost of receiving information that you want to hear. Some of those are more believable. How has social media contributed to the growth of those echo chambers? The growth of that problem. And if so, what word warning should be heated about the development of these echo chambers on digital platforms. 

     

    Professor Esterling: Well, social media companies are for-profit companies and so they want you to keep returning to their platform. And what they found is the most effective way to do that is to give you information that you find attractive. Generally, the information that we find attractive is information that we already strongly agree with. And so as a result, social media companies will, as they're sending you information that you find attractive, you end up not seeing so much information that might disagree with your predispositions. That puts us all at when we're online, we end up in an echo chamber where we just kind of hear views that reinforce whatever views that we had, they become even stronger and more reinforced. And so that makes people more extreme. But if that's happening to everybody, then everybody is becoming more extreme but in the direction of their predisposition. And so that leads to having a society that's increasingly polarized. The result, then that in itself is difficult because then we don't hear the views and reasons for people who disagree with us, right? It only hears views and reasons from people who agree with us. Not only does that reinforce our predispositions, but it makes us think that the people who disagree with us have no reason, there's no merit to support their position that they're just dumb or misguided. And as a result, we're finding it's harder and harder for us to be able to speak across our differences. And that instead, we see that a lot in politics these days that people just have really lost the ability to disagree. Then the other thing that echo chambers do is it makes users vulnerable to misinformation. So when misinformation ends up circulating inside of your echo chamber, typically it's misinformation that again, confirms your predispositions. And so there isn't really an incentive for people to fact check it or to debunk it. Misinformation tends to circulate kind of in a more persistent way inside of echo chambers. And that kind of undermines our ability, as in our democracy, to really have a good factual basis for politics and for being able to talk about politics. 

     

    Kevin Karami: Yeah, I think it's not only upsetting, but it's also so tricky because all of these companies that we're talking about are privately owned and they're for-profit. And their goal is just to make as much money as possible. And yet, you know, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all of these different companies are having a profound effect on our democracy as a country, but also on how you mentioned how people even interact has changed so much. So much so that if you disagree with someone else, you're less likely to actually even give them a chance, let alone intentionally come to a compromise or at least try to maybe have your opinions challenged. So this next question is probably really difficult. But what can we do when these companies are privately owned? Is there any avenue? Because based on everything you're saying and a lot of the talk that's been going on in the past few years, it's very clear that there has been a massive effect on the way we conduct ourselves in terms of our clinical processes?

     

    Professor Esterling: Yeah, to some extent, there's a little bit of self-correction that's happening on social media now because if the social media platforms just become a cesspool of misinformation and ideological content - at some point, people are going to find it less useful. They know that. They're actually trying in some ways to tweak their algorithms to make it less, to sort of reduce the extremity and the suppressed misinformation to some extent. Then they're also aware of that. Not regulating misinformation and extremism can lead to other kinds of problems like the January 6th insurrection that was in response to a lot of information that was election misinformation that was circulating on Facebook and Twitter at the time, right? So I think social media companies are becoming more aware that there's real life consequences that they could be held accountable for in different ways. They're trying, I think, to clean it up a bit. And you actually saw it in the recent, this recent episode where Elon Musk is trying to buy Twitter and turn it into kind of a wild west of free speech. And what people are noting is that He's either just trolling them to get attention. But if he's not - people think it's a bit strange because if he were to do that to Twitter and remove all the protections of sort of suppressing this information and D platforming extremists. If he were to remove those safeguards, it would make Twitter less profitable because it would become a cesspool and lots of people would leave it. And you see that the Twitter board is actually taking strong steps to prevent him from doing that. So at least they're trying; they're not fully revamping their systems to kind of reinforce good democracy. But at least they're doing some things to prevent some of the harms that they've been doing. 

     

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    Kevin Karami: I guess a follow-up to that would be I think that the point that was made about Elon Musk is super interesting and it's really fascinating to see someone, the richest man alive, actually get involved in these kinds of things. And it really just goes to show how much of an impact, um, that wealth and power can have on our democratic systems, the way we conduct democracy in the country. But I think another interesting point is also, do people actually want how many people actually want that kind of landscape? So for example, how many people actually want Twitter to be a wild west where you can say whatever you want? Versus the - because there's also strong supporters for and against the idea of censorship on social media. Like what is the order of the actual numbers on what people want in that sense. And then also, are those people, those people actually right in wanting that outcome - if that makes any sense. 

     

    Professor Esterling: I don't know. I know that there's organizations like PEW that do a lot of surveys of American attitudes about social media, but I just haven't seen the latest about that. Why do you think people are concerned about things like election misinformation leading to violence and vaccine misinformation causing people to die unnecessarily? I think they're aware of that. And I think you also see it that the platforms that really are designed for just unfettered discourse really aren't succeeding. Like Parlor. They're just not they're not - they're not really not taking off because I think in the end it's not really what people want. That there's sort of an unreached, that there ought to be even for individuals to have some accountability when they have speech that they write. And if you have no accountability at all, then that creates kind of an undemocratic setting.

     

    Kevin Karami: Yeah. I also feel like one thing on that point and I think it's a trend that you've brought a parlor which is the one that I was unaware of is, you'll see like small subsections try to do that kind of wild west, as you said, type of setting where it's just anything goes and there's no censorship. But also another thing that you keep bringing up is this idea of accountability. And we've been talking about it. Accountability in the sense of like Twitter doing something to actually or Facebook doing something to prevent something like January 6th, which was obviously a tragedy. And so but in terms of accountability on the individual, on these services, like there really isn't anything that we can do because you either - these companies either input policies that have censorship or are they trying to prevent certain kinds of rhetoric or they don't. And then you get people spreading misinformation about the vaccine or anything like that. It seems like there's really no solid middle ground. You either have to pick one or the other.

     

    Professor Esterling: So for people who study misinformation on social media, that it's actually just a tiny, tiny fraction of people who account for most of it. So like one, something like 1% of the 1% account for 80% of this information that circulated. Most people. I think, I think that once it's circulated it and so I've kind of reverb your reverberating and circulating across the platform. So it ends up having to travel widely. It has an effect, but I don't think that I don't know if it's I don't know. I'd have to sort of think that there are probably incentives for people to go on social media if they want to attract attention or attract likes, attract retweets to be more extreme in a way that they might not be if they were actually talking to people in interpersonal contexts. So I don't know, yeah. 

     

    Kevin Karami: I guess one thing that this also brings up is kind of taking a step back and looking into it from a larger perspective, do you think that social media coining of this digital communication has kind of shifted? The way we look at democracy in general, like the idea of democracy, has it shifted? Or is it just again, the medium has changed. The ideas and ideologies are still the same. 

     

    Professor Esterling: Yeah. I think social media is accelerating, but it's not necessarily the root cause of polarization. And so I think now people are worried about democracy and democracies ability to function and to solve problems. To solve our collective problems, democracy seems to be kind of dysfunctional because of polarization and our inability to talk across differences. And so I think a lot of people are souring on democracy. And even you see this internationally that people are becoming more interested in authoritarian approaches to government. In a way that five years ago I wouldn't have pictured as even being possible. I do think that that kind of polarization and the amount of misinformation in the amount of extremism is kind of undermining democracy and undermining our confidence and democracy. But I think that that was happening even in the absence of social media, that we do it in our day-to-day lives and in the neighborhoods we choose to move to and the places we choose to work and our friends that we interact with, even offline that we tend to create these echo chambers for ourselves anyway. I think that that's all getting easier to do now than it used to be. So people are more mobile and they just have more options for sorting themselves into echo chambers both online and offline. In a way that ten years ago, 20 years ago, 50 years ago, it was just harder for people to do that, to be able to kind of isolate themselves and not really have contact with people that don't agree with them. I think social media is fueling that as fueling that people's mistrust and in democracy and their lack of faith in democracy. But it's not, it's not necessarily the cause of it.

     

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    Kevin Karami: I think that's really interesting because you'll see a lot of people point to social media and blame it for a lot of the problems in, like you said, it's not to say that there aren't issues caused by it. Like the echo chambers we talked about or some of the other issues we've spoken about, but that they're larger, larger, larger factors that need to be considered that are more interpersonal, that aren't connected directly to social media because you'll see it. So I mean, I see it all the time. 

     

    Professor Esterling: It's a time of a lot of change. And then when there's lots of change in lots of different ways, in our society, we go through these periods of disruption and anxiety. Social media doesn't help it, but I think that it's just something that we as a society have to work through and kind of learn how to live in new circumstances that are matched to where things are headed. And I think once we do this all sorts, but we're just kind of going through a transition phase right now.

    Kevin Karami: Can you guess based on that point, Were there any other, just for context, what other points in the last, maybe 15-20 years or maybe even further further back, would you say were points where there was some kind of disruption in society that caused people to have to shift their mindset? Is there anything you can think of.

     

    Professor Esterling: Well, yeah. I mean, the last kind of big disruption was the civil rights movement and the 1960's, that's kind of really what set things in motion to the politics that we have today. And it's kind of unfolded over a long time. But the, the 1980's, there was this alliance between non Southern Democrats and Republicans who were in favor of advancing civil rights and inclusion. And Southern Democrats were opposed to it. You all know this. But then what because of that? Because of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and other things set in motion. That time, the Democratic Party became kind of more progressive on civil rights and inclusion. And that set off a realignment, whereas Southern Democrats ended up realigning. Dating back to an initiative that was started in the Nixon administration to help, to lead Southern Democrats to realign to become Republicans. Today's Republican Party is essentially the heir to the Southern Democrats. Kind of resistance to inclusion. And that's what we're seeing. And that was, that was kind of a process that unfolded starting a little bit before the Nixon administration got started up through, up through now. That's been unfolding over time. And so I think that that's kind of where we are and it's time. I think that as a society we're grappling with the world. That's where we are and we have to figure out how we're going to go forward from here.

     

    Kevin Karami: It's just fascinating that the way we communicate with one another can have such a massive impact.

     

    Professor Esterling: Yeah, well, I mean, you know, they talked about this in the civil rights movement. The photographs from Selma, from the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the beatings that happened there were really impactful in the end. Having a lot sort of changed how Northern Democrats thought about civil rights and really kind of set the stage and motivation for passage of the Voting Rights Act. So technology has always played a role. It's just been something different that those were black and white photos and these papers. And now we have YouTube videos and TikToks and that kind of thing. 

     

    Kevin Karami: Yeah. So I guess since we're kind of heading towards the end of the episode, I do want to kind of end on some of the work you're doing. In this context just for our audience. Can you first describe what Pertanium is? Then also what your personal goals are in regard to potential, but maybe even beyond some of the other work you're doing. 

     

    Professor Esterling: That's a lot. Haha. That's a lot. Why don't I just try to say what Pertaniumis. Then if you want, I could follow up on it with anything else. I had a project that was funded by the National Science Foundation like a decade ago where we had a chance to work with members of Congress on using web-based, especially webinar platforms to think of. Making more effective use of webinar platforms enabled members of Congress to have more effective town halls and couldn't have a more robust conversation with their constituents on policy topics. And that was trying to get at this problem that we started with where congressional offices are getting a lot of mail, but they don't really know how to sort through it. And so we wanted to help them think of ways to use technology to connect directly with their constituents and hear directly from their constituents, but also to have constituents feel empowered that they have a chance to speak directly to their member of Congress. We came up with some best practices and then we did a study where we implemented those in collaboration with members of Congress, having town halls with their constituents and ended up having a set of best practices that came out of that. And when that study ended, I felt like the next step and that research, there were different directions that I could go in. And what I thought was the most important next step was to think about finding ways to encode those best practices into the technology itself. And if you think about it, if you've ever been to a town hall with an elected official that's hosted on a Zoom webinar or a Facebook Live or something. As a participant, you have very limited opportunities to express your views. Webinars are really just mostly an opportunity for public officials to just communicate their message to their constituents. But it really isn't a chance for them to kind of hear from their constituents and learn from them. And so we designed a new platform that's like a webinar platform, but it has much more extensive tools for participants to be able to express themselves during the meeting. So there's chances, a chance to ask questions, see the questions that other constituents are asking. To like other constituents' questions to quote them, to expand on them, but also to give continuous feedback in real time to the moderator of the person who's hosting the event with their thoughts about sort of what the speaker was saying. We really wanted to give participants really much more robust opportunities to express themselves and be heard. And then at the same time, we wanted to. To create tools for the person that was hosting the town hall to curate the question list as it was coming in to figure out how to curate effectively to know what question to ask next. And so if you think, do you think about, if you're in a town hall where there's 1000 other people all asking questions at the same time. You need some way to sort through the question list to figure out, well, what's the best next question to ask? And so we're, we've created tools for the people, the organizers, the people who are hosting the event, to be able to sort through the question list really effectively. Like on a Zoom webinar, you just don't, you just get this flat list of questions you don't know how to act like to go to next. Then the other thing we're trying to do is to do computer science research, to design algorithms that do the kind of the opposite of the algorithms that we see on social media. Algorithms that would help the host, the moderator of the person running the event to see, to be able to sort the questions in a way, to see the full diverse set of views from the community as opposed to sort of whatever the loudest voices are, most persistent voices, but to try to find ways to make to balance it out so that everybody's voice could get hurt. And also to build in tools that check as people are asking questions that it tests for. Whether those questions really are on topic or off-topic. Questions that are disruptively off topic would be given less priority. Ones that are on topic would be given more priority. And just things like that. Just things to sort of help the moderator to curate the question list, to make it an effective meeting. Even when the meeting grossed out to a lot of people. Having a lot of people, a lot of participants were working on that. Then we have a pretty stable version of the platform. And then the algorithm is sort of our next phase. We're trying to do the research to do this. 

     

    Kevin Karami: That's super, super cool. I think it's really important work.

     

    Professor Esterling: Yeah, thanks.

     

    Kevin Karami: I haven't really heard of people actually talking about developing this kind of platform that makes it more efficient. Usually it's just something that's specific to something about social media, but not on the actual democratic aspect of it. And I guess kind of going off of that. Do you have any personal goals in regards to Pertanium to them or maybe other goals you have going on?

     

    Professor Esterling: Well, you know, what I'd like is for it, for Pertanium to become a, to develop to where it can be kind of part of the normal workflow of democracies. And so one thing I've worked with members of Congress in the past, and I still work with members of Congress and with opportunities to give input to Congress to make recommendations. And so I hope that they make more extensive use of it. But I also have a group where we're trying to think of how to apply the technology to local level meetings, which is really different. And a lot of times local meetings are a bit harder to manage because people oftentimes have stronger views on if it's about housing or homelessness or crime. The topics that come up at the local level tend to evoke really strong responses. And so it's like a tough, interesting but tough test case to think about how to apply the technology at the local level. But we would like it eventually for either peritoneum itself or platform like pertaining to become scaled up to where it becomes part of more of a routine, part of the workflow of democracy and give people a more effective voice in at different levels of government. But then designing the technology in a way that it helps to ensure that as they're expressing themselves, they're doing it in a way that's on topic and constructive. That's what we're hoping to do

     

    Kevin Karami: That's a great note to end on. We've talked a lot about the negatives and the way our society and our democracy has been impacted. But it's great to see that there's another aspect to it, that this technology can be used for positive purposes. I think it's a great note,

     

    Professor Esterling: Exactly. Technology is neither good nor bad. It's just how it's designed and how it ends up getting used. 

     

    Kevin Karami: I think that's a great quote and on how we use technology is more important than dictating whether it's good or bad and it's not black or white. They are grey areas and it's about the people that work on it. And what we want to do is cannot determine the outcomes of all this. That being said, we are at the end of our allotted time. Professor Esterling, Thank you so much for joining us for the first in-person podcast recording the grade. It was an honor to have you here with us today. 

     

    Professor Esterling: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me.

     

    Kevin Karami: This podcast is a production of the UC Riverside School of Public Policy. Our theme music was produced by C Codaine. I'm Kevin Karami. Till next time.