The primary skill of a person in an attention-scarce environment is making relatively quick decisions about what to turn their attention toward, and making longer term decisions about how to construct their media environment to provide trustworthy information.
I have a reputation, which is the trace of past events and current relationships in a social system. But that reputation isn’t really separate from the techniques others use to decode and utilize my reputation for decision-making. This relationship is synergistic.
the goal of disinformation isn’t really around these individual transactions. The goal of disinformation is to, over time, change our psychological set-points. To the researcher looking at individuals at specific points in time, the homeostasis looks protective — fire up Mechanical Turk, see what people believe, give them information or disinformation, see what changes. What you’ll find is nothing changes — set-points are remarkably resilient. But underneath that, from year to year, is drift. And its the drift that matters.
But whatever your take, I encourage you to think of disinformation in this way, at least for a bit — not as the spread of false information, but as the hacking of the simulated reality which we all must necessarily inhabit. As something that does not just change knowledge, but which produces new life experiences as real as the the Iraq War, your neighbor’s fight with cancer, or your child’s illness. To see it in this way is perhaps more terrifying, but ultimately necessary as we attempt to address the problem.
Meanwhile, post by post, click by click, people of all ages are being slowly groomed into conspiracy cultures that turn fear into violence and authoritarian rule. Once people’s reality is warped in this way, bringing them back is difficult, and yet we are moving at a snail’s pace on educational and technological fronts. The media is still talking about the problem as if the core was people being impolite. The world slowly slides toward a dark future, across the globe. We have educational solutions (just read the rest of this blog) but they remain un-deployed or under-deployed.
While mass education is good and should be pursued as a long-term solution, if I was going to target our online literacy immediately and had a limited number of seats, I would target it at everyone that will find their way to positions of influence. Politicians. Policy leads. Product managers at tech startups. Future FBI agents and social workers and department heads. I would look at the gears of democratic institutions — political, civic, administrative — and see who has their hands on the levers, from the mid-level bureaucrats to the top.
In 2002, Chico State University did a little rearranging and got the letters into the CRAAP acronym. Others organized the questions into RADCAB. And we taught this and its variations for almost twenty years even though it did not work, and most librarians I’ve talked to realized it didn’t work many years back but didn’t know what else to do.
One of the nice things about running a blog-fueled grassroots semi-funded initiative is the agility. The Digipo project has moved far and fast in the past year. But one of the bad things is all the old blogposts a just a snapshot in time, and often out of date.
One of the things I’ve been trying to convince people for the past year and a half is that the only viable literacy solution to web misinformation involves always checking any information in your stream that you find interesting, emotion-producing, or shareable. It’s not enough to check the stuff that is suspicious: if you apply your investigations selectively, you’ve already lost the battle.
Now imagine a world where checking your mirrors before switching lanes was rare, three standard-deviations-out behavior. What would the roads look like?
Caulfield focuses on two what is the site and is this new correct true. In a world where abundance is only a click away, maybe we are at a point where it is time to reassess what that actually means.