BY Jackie O’Rourke
On Feb. 13, the School of Communications, Media, and the Arts (SCMA) held a symposium that consisted of a screening of the documentary “The Great Hack,” followed by a talk from one of the film’s subjects, David Carroll.
“David Carroll is an associate professor of media design at Parsons School of Design at The New School. A longtime advocate for data rights, his legal challenge of Cambridge Analytical in connection with the U.S. presidential election of 2016 resulted in the only criminal conviction of the company by the Information Commissioner’s Office,” said the program handed out at the event.
“Talking to students at universities is one of my favorite things to do with this film,” said Carroll.
This symposium was part of the annual Gottlieb lecture series that SCMA sponsors in honor of Professor Sidney Gottlieb’s late family members. These lecture series have been a tradition at Sacred Heart University since 1986.
“I’ve been at Sacred Heart for a long time. One of the things it seemed to me that we needed, very early on, was the opportunity to have other voices come to campus… I have put together a lecture series and it’s such an interesting and emotional experience for me,” said Gottlieb addressing the crowd at the event.
The event was put on by the SCMA but was also supported by the Human Journey Colloquia Series. Seniors in SCMA were required to attend for their senior project. A variety of students were in attendance to receive credit for class.
“I really enjoyed the event because I have never thought about social media like that before and how it could affect something as big as our elections. I think it’s so crazy how people could manipulate the internet for their gain and profile people in those ways,” said senior Michelle Munos.
“The Great Hack” is a 2019 Netflix film. The streaming service believes it allows viewers to “explore how a data company named Cambridge Analytica came to symbolize the dark side of social media in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
“I thought the film ‘The Great Hack’ was a really interesting documentary. It definitely would not have been something that I would have watched on my own time but being able to sit in an environment with a bunch of different media majors was a really cool experience,” said senior Matt Kreckie.
Netflix categorizes the documentary as “Controversial, Provocative, and Cerebral.”
“I thought the film was good. Really good, but kind of scary though,” said junior Ashley Gerckens.
“I learned a lot from it and the graphics were really interesting to see,” said Kreckie.
One of the main subjects of the film, David Carroll, a Connecticut native, spoke to the crowd following the screening.
“So I’ve come home, I grew up down the street in Easton. I remember Sacred Heart, but before, it was not the Sacred Heart of today, this massive and impressive place. I’m really happy to be here,” said Carroll in his opening remarks.
For part of his talk, Carroll recapped the film and updated everyone on what has happened since filming.
“The film ends in an unresolved way. We don’t know what happened and still have so many questions. And there are a lot of loose ends, even though it took two hours to even get as much as it got through. There’s still so much more to talk about. I will talk briefly as a way to kind of pick up where the film leaves off,” said Carroll.
“I thought his talk was really influential. I learned a lot from the talk, almost as much as I learned from the film. I really thought it added some credibility to the film and the fact that he was able to stand there and talk about it and things that have happened since the film was published,” said Kreckie.
Carroll also taught students the significance of repatriating voter data and why it would be worth their while to pay attention to how much public information they put out on social media.
“So, this idea repatriating one’s voter data is a very strange notion. Why would we even need to do that? It’s because our data was exported to another country and that’s really the weird thing about the scandal in many ways that got overlooked. I’m going to focus in on that and what is significant about that,” said Carroll.
“After learning all that David Carroll had to say, I want to work harder to protect my own information so I cannot be targeted,” said Munos.
“We are conscious that our personal information is really public information now with the frenzy of social media. I think that David Carroll’s presentation taught us that it’s not just about being conscious, but also proactive in how we care for and protect our rights and dignity as humans,” said senior Mayte Figueroa-Camilo.