Information gerrymandering in social networks skews collective decision-making
Jan 5, 2017danah boyd
Understanding what sources to trust is a basic tenet of media literacy education.
Think about how this might play out in communities where the “liberal media” is viewed with disdain as an untrustworthy source of information…or in those where science is seen as contradicting the knowledge of religious people…or where degrees are viewed as a weapon of the elite to justify oppression of working people. Needless to say, not everyone agrees on what makes a trusted source.
Students are also encouraged to reflect on economic and political incentives that might bias reporting. Follow the money, they are told. Now watch what happens when they are given a list of names of major power players in the East Coast news media whose names are all clearly Jewish. Welcome to an opening for anti-Semitic ideology.
In the United States, we believe that worthy people lift themselves up by their bootstraps. This is our idea of freedom. To take away the power of individuals to control their own destiny is viewed as anti-American by so much of this country. You are your own master.
Children are indoctrinated into this cultural logic early, even as their parents restrict their mobility and limit their access to social situations. But when it comes to information, they are taught that they are the sole proprietors of knowledge. All they have to do is “do the research” for themselves and they will know better than anyone what is real.
Combine this with a deep distrust of media sources.
Many marginalized groups are justifiably angry about the ways in which their stories have been dismissed by mainstream media for decades.It took five days for major news outlets to cover Ferguson. It took months and a lot of celebrities for journalists to start discussing the Dakota Pipeline. But feeling marginalized from news media isn’t just about people of color.
Keep in mind that anti-vaxxers aren’t arguing that vaccinations definitively cause autism. They are arguing that we don’t know. They are arguing that experts are forcing children to be vaccinated against their will, which sounds like oppression. What they want is choice — the choice to not vaccinate. And they want information about the risks of vaccination, which they feel are not being given to them. In essence, they are doing what we taught them to do: questioning information sources and raising doubts about the incentives of those who are pushing a single message. Doubt has become tool.
Addressing so-called fake news is going to require a lot more than labeling. It’s going to require a cultural change about how we make sense of information, whom we trust, and how we understand our own role in grappling with information. Quick and easy solutions may make the controversy go away, but they won’t address the underlying problems.
In the United States, we’re moving towards tribalism (see Fukuyama), and we’re undoing the social fabric of our country through polarization, distrust, and self-segregation.
John Palfrey, Urs Gasser: Born Digital
Digital Natives share a common global culture that is defined not by age, strictly, but by certain attributes and experience related to how they interact with information technologies, information itself, one another, and other people and institutions. Those who were not “born digital’ can be just as connected, if not more so, than their younger counterparts. And not everyone born since, say 1982, happens to be a digital native.” (see also http://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims/2018/04/15/no-millennials-gen-z-gen-x/
the intellectual dark web
more on media literacy in this IMS blog
fake news in this IMS blog