Taylor Dotson

Taylor Dotson is Associate Professor of Social Science at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and the author of Technically Together: Reconstructing Community in a Networked World (MIT Press).

  • The Divide

    The Divide

    How Fanatical Certitude Is Destroying Democracy

    Taylor Dotson

    Why our obsession with truth—the idea that some undeniable truth will make politics unnecessary—is driving our political polarization.

    In The Divide, Taylor Dotson argues provocatively that what drives political polarization is not our disregard for facts in a post-truth era, but rather our obsession with truth. The idea that some undeniable truth will make politics unnecessary, Dotson says, is damaging democracy. We think that appealing to facts, or common sense, or nature, or the market will resolve political disputes. We view our opponents as ignorant, corrupt, or brainwashed. Dotson argues that we don't need to agree with everyone, or force everyone to agree with us; we just need to be civil enough to practice effective politics.

    Dotson shows that we are misguided to pine for a lost age of respect for expertise. For one thing, such an age never happened. For another, people cannot be made into ultra-rational Vulcans. Dotson offers a road map to guide both citizens and policy makers in rethinking and refashioning political interactions to be more productive. To avoid the trap of divisive and fanatical certitude, we must stop idealizing expert knowledge and romanticizing common sense. He outlines strategies for making political disputes more productive: admitting uncertainty, sharing experiences, and tolerating and negotiating disagreement. He suggests reforms to political practices and processes, adjustments to media systems, and dramatic changes to schooling, childhood, the workplace, and other institutions. Productive and intelligent politics is not a product of embracing truth, Dotson argues, but of adopting a pluralistic democratic process.

    • Paperback $25.00
  • Technically Together

    Technically Together

    Reconstructing Community in a Networked World

    Taylor Dotson

    Why we should not accept “networked individualism” as the inevitable future of community.

    If social interaction by social media has become “the modern front porch” (as one sociologist argues), offering richer and more various contexts for community and personal connection, why do we often feel lonelier after checking Facebook? For one thing, as Taylor Dotson writes in Technically Together, “Try getting a Facebook status update to help move a couch or stay for dinner.” Dotson argues that the experts who assure us that “networked individualism” will only bring us closer together seem to be urging citizens to adapt their social expectations to the current limits of technology and discouraging them from considering how technologies could be refashioned to enable other ways of relating and belonging.

    Dotson characterizes different instantiations of community as “thick” or “thin,” depending on the facets and manifestations of togetherness that they encompass. Individuating social networks are a form of community, he explains, but relatively thin in regard to several dimensions of communality.

    Dotson points out that current technological practices are not foreordained but supported by policies, economic arrangements, and entrenched patterns of thought. He examines a range of systems, organizations, and infrastructures—from suburban sprawl and smartphones to energy grids and “cry-it-out” sleep training for infants—and considers whether they contribute to the atomization of social life or to togetherness and community vibrancy. Dotson argues that technology could support multifaceted communities if citizens stopped accepting the technological status quo and instead demanded more from their ever-present devices.

    • Hardcover $35.00