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OPLIN 4cast #561: Selective truth

Posted in 4cast

As librarians, we place great value on accurate, unbiased information. Perhaps the most frustrating thing for us in regard to current internet trends is the intentional manipulation of information to influence people’s beliefs, with little or no regard for accuracy. Most people, it turns out, are less interested in accurate information than they are in comfortable information, and will actively select and collect information that confirms their beliefs. This is not evil, it is human nature: librarians and others who try to collect accurate information regardless of their personal beliefs are the exception, not the rule. I am proud to have worked with such exceptional people for the past 27 years.

  • How technology disrupted the truth (The Guardian | Katharine Viner)  “For 500 years after Gutenberg, the dominant form of information was the printed page: knowledge was primarily delivered in a fixed format, one that encouraged readers to believe in stable and settled truths. Now, we are caught in a series of confusing battles between opposing forces: between truth and falsehood, fact and rumour, kindness and cruelty; between the few and the many, the connected and the alienated; between the open platform of the web as its architects envisioned it and the gated enclosures of Facebook and other social networks; between an informed public and a misguided mob. What is common to these struggles – and what makes their resolution an urgent matter – is that they all involve the diminishing status of truth. This does not mean that there are no truths. It simply means, as this year has made very clear, that we cannot agree on what those truths are, and when there is no consensus about the truth and no way to achieve it, chaos soon follows.”
  • Further reflections on truth, politics and education (Public Seminar | Jeffrey Goldfarb)  “We noted together that the assault on factual truth seems to be global and organized, but then debated our various interpretations. The systematic lying that constitutes post truth politics is sustained because of the present media environment, as people depend on their social media friends to keep up with current events and to inform their opinions. It is a result of algorithms of social media giants that feed us with all the news that confirms our already formed opinions.”
  • Twitter founder: Trump election shows social media helping to ‘dumb the entire world down’ (The Hill | Rebecca Savransky)  “‘The much bigger issue is not Donald Trump using Twitter that got him elected, even if he says so,’ [Twitter founder Evan] Williams said. ‘It is the quality of the information we consume that is reinforcing dangerous beliefs and isolating people and limiting people’s open-mindedness and respect for truth.’ Williams said there is a media ecosystem that ‘is supported and thrives on attention.’ ‘And that is what’s making us dumber and not smarter, and Donald Trump is a symptom of that,’ Williams said.”
  • The meaning of scientific “truth” in the presidential election (Scientific American | Dan Kahan)  “As a consumer, a voter, or participant in public discourse generally, an ordinary indivdual’s personal behavior is too inconsequential to affect climate change. Accordingly, if an individual makes a mistake about the best available evidence in any of these capacities, neither she nor anyone she cares about will be adversely affected. But because of what positions on climate change have come to signify about who one is, and whose side one is on in the struggle for dominance in American cultural life, someone who forms beliefs out of keeping with her social group risks losing the trust and confidence of her peers. In this situation, then, the formation of habits of mind that conduce to beliefs in line with one’s cultural group is thus perfectly rational for ordinary individuals.”

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