📑 Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole

Bookmarked Opinion | Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole by Charlie Warzel (nytimes.com)

Critical thinking, as we’re taught to do it, isn’t helping in the fight against misinformation.

Warzel profiles Mike Caulfield and his work with four moves and SIFT.

SIFT has its limits. It’s designed for casual news consumers, not experts or those attempting to do deep research. A reporter working on an investigative story or trying to synthesize complex information will have to go deep. But for someone just trying to figure out a basic fact, it’s helpful not to get bogged down. “We’ve been trained to think that Googling or just checking one resource we trust is almost like cheating,” he said. “But when people search Google, the best results may not always be first, but the good information is usually near the top. Often you see a pattern in the links of a consensus that’s been formed. But deeper into the process, it often gets weirder. It’s important to know when to stop.”

It is interesting to think about this alongside pieces from Tim Harford and Edward Snowden which both emphasise the importance of curiosity. Caulfield is not against curiousity, but instead about not being pulled down the rabbit hole.

That natural human mind-set is a liability in an attention economy. It allows grifters, conspiracy theorists, trolls and savvy attention hijackers to take advantage of us and steal our focus. “Whenever you give your attention to a bad actor, you allow them to steal your attention from better treatments of an issue, and give them the opportunity to warp your perspective,” Mr. Caulfield wrote.

One response on “📑 Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole”

  1. One of my main criticisms of Mike Caulfield’s approach to critical literacy is his emphasis on authenticating the source of news or information. That’s the core of his ‘four moves’ algorithm: “stop, investigate the source, find better coverage, and trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context.” And that, I think, is the sense of advice to not ‘go down the rabbit hole’ in this NY Times article summarized by Aaron Davis. “It’s often counterproductive to engage directly with content from an unknown source, and people can be led astray by false information,” writes Charlie Warzel. I disagree. If you’re not willing to look at what an unknown source has to say, you’re going to miss most of what could be said on any given topic. Yes, there are flakes. But there are also expressions of lived experience from the disenfranchised, the marginalized, and the silenced. And this is as true in a subject like online learning is it is in news and politics – maybe even more true. What’s important isn’t finding sources to trust, but rather, hearing a diversity of sources, watching them interact with each other, and testing their ideas against our own experience.

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