It seems as if Charlottesville was several years ago. It was a shock, seeing Nazis and white supremacists carrying torches on the campus of the University of Virginia campus, then invading the town carrying guns and the kind of gear that you’d think belonged to an angry offshoot of the Society for Creative Anachronism, unleashing threats, violence, beatings, and even murder. There was outrage, but since then there has been a strange drift toward accepting white supremacy. It’s fueling candidates for office. It shows up on talk shows where hosts say America won’t be America if we don’t get rid of immigrants.
This is nothing new. What’s new, I think, is the way in which social media and journalism are trying to negotiate new forms of expression and argument in the midst of the vast and immediate distribution of text, images, and video through new channels. I’m trying to figure out how to help students understand the information they encounter, and our usual discussions of evaluation of sources simply doesn’t apply without a broader grasp of the sociotechnical moment we’re in. Understanding events like Charlottesville and the hate-inspired violence that keeps happening is likewise impossible without understanding the ways information outside the library flows. Continue reading “can’t argue with that”
This coda to my last blog post is, in part, inspired by John Warner’s latest discussion of replacing human teachers responding to writing with machines that can read for structure and grammar but not for meaning, because meaning is not required to prove you can write. (In fact, according to the people selling this program, being able to write nonsense according to formula is proof you can write well! As if writing and meaning are separate categories.)
It’s also inspired by a piece in the New Yorker about people who believe the earth is flat and have the evidence to prove it – because there’s an abundance of evidence to prove just about anything you want, right now, and being able to “do the research yourself” is somehow affirming, a form of liberty. You don’t have to trust traditional authorities. You can find the truth yourself, online, and you’ll find a community of people who will agree with you to confirm your free thought.
Continue reading “it’s the attention economy, and it’s stupid”
Mike Caulfield has written a handy (and free!) classroom-ready book about fact-checking and provides useful case studies for students and anyone who wants to fine-tune their bullshit detector. Also, he has explained why simply studying a document for clues (a checklist approach) doesn’t work and four moves you can make instead: corroborate, trace the story’s origin, confirm (aka “read laterally”), and don’t get stuck in a rabbit hole (“circle back”). I have to also give a tip of the hat to Marc Meola who made a very similar point back in 2004, though we didn’t need it quite so badly back then.
Continue reading “from schooled skepticism to informed trust”