Empathy in a Digital Age

This course considers how our attitudes about our ability to connect with and empathize with one another have been shaped by new technologies, especially social media. The course explores what the “problem” of empathy means in our current cultural moment, a time when we have more direct access to one another than ever before, but where people often express loneliness, alienation, and even anger when other people feel and think differently. Students investigate how much of this struggle is new and how various philosophers, journalists, sociologists, and anthropologists consider the question of whether it’s truly possible for us to understand one another’s experiences. In addition, students research online communities, conducting interviews, and speaking with medical actors, community leaders, scientists, and animal rights activists, in order to look more closely at the ways that empathy can build bridges, while also considering how empathy itself might not always be what we truly want or even need in our quest for human connection.

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