Following the Crumbs Can Be Crummy…

This post is late because of a certain snarky blog poster’s birthday this weekend #24on24

Anyway….

Hey~

This week, we explored the nature of truth in online spaces. Often, online, false news or misinformation spreads more rapidly and much further than facts or more honest news or truthful reporting of information. With this being the case, how is one to navigate online spaces and make decisions about the truth or “fakeness” of a source? Can there be any fake or real news in a place like America that has become so divided? More, does truth even matter anymore when it so easy to make up information that supports a false narrative and or straight-up choose to believe in facts or not?

Personally, I believe the truth will always matter. I believe it is important to question information and think critically about where information is coming from but I ultimately do believe that there are facts and indomitable truths. Maybe they’re not Plato’s capital “T” Truths but there are true things/people/facts out there. It is important to believe in the reality of the truth, to me, because if we can’t agree on a set of truths, then we can’t have a meaningful discussion. We could only engage in arguments–which seldom resolve problems.

What is causing division in this country, in my opinion, is a lack of faith in news organizations and traditionally heralded, respected sources of information. This lack of faith, I believe, is being caused largely by political pundits and agents of a particular political agenda who benefit substantially from the spread of misinformation and from generating distrust towards facts and critical information. How do we circumvent this, though? How do we identify misinformation online? And, more, how do we get people to care about misinformation?

That latter question may be more challenging to answer but I did come across some sources that talk about fake news and identifying misinformation online. One of them is a news articles by The New York Times. In the article, “Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News” some strategies are provided for navigating misinformation online. More, how false information spreads is analysed and discussed. Two other articles quoted in this article discuss the issue of fake news at length. One of the articles is “As Fake News Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug at the Truth” and the other is “How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study” Both of these articles talk about more specific details about fake news and how its spread operates in online spaces. The second article seems to use Mike Caulfield’s “Four Moves” method in order to determine whether or not a specific example (i.e that fake protesters were being shuttled to Trump rallies) is fake or not (It is–no one needs to be paid to protest the guy >.>). 

Anyway, I think these articles are good sources to provide to our field guide for navigating the web. They elaborate more upon the problem of fake news in our Internet landscape and provide examples for navigating this complex and complicated landscape.

I’d give these sources about 7/10.

****

~Till next time~

Advertisements

There Is No “NO” Button…

This post may be late because it’s a certain snarky blog poster’s birthday on Sunday, the 24th….

Hello~

Welcome back to the hellscape ^.^ This week, we’re exploring the circumstances that led to a post-truth Internet and the creation of a platform that is responsible now, more than ever, for spreading more “fake” content than real.

Strap in!

There Are Only “Okay” Buttons

In this day and age, I think it’s a given for most of us to believe that more than half of what we see online is fake. At the very least, we don’t necessarily believe that the content we encounter online has a high truthiness factor. This may be exclusive to younger generations but I do think it is a growing sentiment, regardless of political or social leanings in many case. No one believes everything they see online anymore.

But, why?

This week, we explored some of the strategies people can use in order to determine whether or not a source of information is credible. One of the methods we explored is Mike Caulfield’s “Four Moves“. I consider this a “work backwards” method. Essentially, before considering how truthful information is, you should look at the context in which this information exists–Are there other sources cited within the source? Are there other credible publications put out by this source? Can claims made within be verified by other sources? No? If not, why? To me, these all seem like basic moves one makes while conducting thorough and rigorous research. But, as we can see in this analysis of a suspect photo, these steps are apparently not so obvious.

Then why do so many people think the Internet is so fake if this kind of rigorous inspection of information is not so common?

Personally, I believe it is because of the recent and rigorous work of others done in exposing cover-ups both online and IRL that has made people more suspicious in this age. Also, I think political leanings have served to make people suspicious of all information they come across online, especially if it contradicts their world view and regardless of whether or not it comes from a credible source. We are living in “shady” times and I think the Internet has been used in the service of being shady but has also served as a microscope through which to inspect this shady activity.

Anyway, like being tracked online, I think this idea that the Internet is fake is a concept many of us now take as a given and, really, have come to expect. We don’t necessarily all remember a time when the Internet was a place where you could be fake and it didn’t matter. Which, is another aspect of this issue: the idea of being fake online is almost entirely associated with nefarious activity or with this sense of wrongdoing. Basically, if you aren’t you online, the same you you are IRL, then you have something to hide or you are purposefully trying to fool people into believing you are something you are not. There’s no playfulness or idea of experimenting with identity anymore. (Well, I do think some of that is coming back but I’ll save that discussion for a future post.) I think our jadedness with the post-truth Internet could more aptly be described as an expression of our fears–our fears of being fooled or being ridiculed or being made fun of for falling for something we believed to be true. I believe there’s a lot of complex emotion wrapped up in our ideas about the Internet and it’s ability to rapidly and unrepentantly spread false information.

This article, by Max Read, explores the web of ideas surrounding the post-truth Internet. Essentially, the core argument of this article seems to be that it’s not just one component of the Internet that is fake–it’s all of them. There are fake people using fake sites made by fake businesses to, ultimately, make real money. According to this article, that’s largely the problem. Read states, “Everything that once seemed definitively and unquestionably real now seems slightly fake; everything that once seemed slightly fake now has the power and presence of the real.” Here, Read is referencing the concept of Inversion. Basically, the Inversion is the tipping point where “real” traffic becomes more suspect online than bot traffic or “unreal” traffic. Computer systems and tracking systems become more apt at tracking bot traffic than traffic on sites committed by real users. It has a strong Matrix texture to it, in some ways. I think Read makes a very compelling case in this article for more attention to be paid to fake news and online tracking around it but I’m not sure I totally buy into everything he’s saying. At least, I don’t necessarily agree with some of his premises.

Mainly, I find it contentious to say that we are anymore fake online than we are IRL. Sure, the Internet provides more opportunities to be fake in some regards but, ultimately, I think it is preposterous to say that we are anymore real outside of the Internet. With how much social, academic, professional, political, cultural, etc. conditioning we have experienced every second of every day, from the moment we are alive, I think it’s inaccurate to say we are real outside the Internet and fake online. Like, I can’t agree with that. I think it’s more nuanced. I think it’s more complicated. (Check out my thoughts on that here.)

Something important that Read does talk about and that I agree with is that only advertisers benefit from the current state of the Internet. Currently, the Internet is good for ads. This is, in large part, due to unregulated data tracking and places like “click farms”. It is far too easy to game the system.

Episode 2” on the documentary series Do Not Track explores easy it is for different entities to track us, cull our data, and place targeted ads. Cookies, which are not regulated in the US Communism is apparently cool so long as it’s for surveillance and everyone gets a cookie,  can attach themselves to our computers and send back fairly comprehensive profiles based upon our data. It’s incredibly too simple.

It seems that so long as perpetuating  and pedaling inaccurate information is profitable, it’s not going to stop anytime soon. Under this system, you and I only have value so long as we can generate revenue. More than that, it doesn’t seem to matter if you are I know what is and is not true because that has no value under this system. As stated in Do Not Track, there is no “No” button for cookies; only an “Okay” button. Even if there were value in demonstrating resistance, there’s no way to do it. Which, to me, seems pretty bleak. Like, the Panopticon doesn’t even care anymore if you know that there’s no one really in the tower. That’s scary.

All this said, I feel like I need to reaffirm my own belief in the power of truth and of speaking truth to power. Though it may not have any monetary value, truth is one of the most worthwhile currencies. Every may pass but the truth will always remain. It is gold. Right now, it may feel like we’re trying to get gold out of mercury, like it’s pointless to try for the truth let alone care about it. But, it’s important now more than ever that we are consistent in our efforts. The truth doesn’t always have to be the loudest voice to be heard; just the most consistent. Power will never hear a truth that isn’t voiced. More, you and I will never believe the truths we don’t reaffirm for ourselves. If anything, that is what the Internet is revealing to us.

****

Bonus Post

This week, I added some articles to the field guide that elaborate more on how misinformation proliferates and perpetuates in online spaces. These articles focus on the problem of fake news and just how easily it is to spread on the Internet. I think these articles provide some reading strategies that could be useful for further developing digital literacy skills.

Daily Digital Alchemies

This week, I had some fun and created an alternate persona online named Veronica ^.^ She swears she has no idea where any emails may have gone or where any video tapes are or what the word “collusion” really means…..>.>

Also, I had some fun with pixelating an image of the night sky which I feel represents my feelings towards alchemy: that alchemy is a bright light in an otherwise dark sky. (Same as the truth.)

~Till next time~

You Kant Make Me Argue Ethics…

Do you have to make it entirely clear when an account is a bot?

Is it misleading, or, more, deceptive to keep that information not secret, per say, but not readily available either? Like, what are the moral obligations of bot-creators? Are there any? Is there a kind of digital, moral imperative? Or, more simply, rules of conduct in online spaces that are true all of the time? (Or else how can they be moral imperatives?)

These concerns and questions arose not while I was in the process of setting up a bot but, after I had created the bot and realized that I didn’t necessarily want to allocate a space on my account to revealing the “trick.” Honestly, I felt and still feel doing so steals some of the magic. (Kind of like over-tagging in fanfic. Stating an account is a bot–announcing it’s run on a systematic queue as opposed to a flesh and blood person amounts to the same a as adding so many tags to a fic that it becomes undeniable that it isn’t canon. And, I think some of the joy of fanfic is that it toes the line of reality in the same kind of way that bots can. Anyway, that was a long deviation. Back to the matter at hand!)

Is non-disclosure in this context wrong?

To complicate matters, I came across this thread of discussion between one pesky faerie and a circle-talking prophet. In it, a question about whether or not one can be at fault for another’s faith is posed. Simply, how responsible is one for another’s willingness to be deceived? If all the info/evidence, aside from an outright admission/confession, is freely available for one to interpret and draw logical–you’d hope–conclusions from, is my fault they decide one plausibility is more credible than another? Trumps another?

For example, if you walk into a grocery store, see all the bar-codes on products, the numbers following little $ symbols on shelves, then notice the registers at the front of the establishment with scanners–scanning as you watch the items of other guests to the establishment and ringing up, again, numbers beside $ symbols which prompt the guests to exchange currency in some form–and you still attempt to/decide to grab an apple pie and mosey on out of that store without swinging by the registers like everyone else, the resulting consequences are kind of on you. I know many grocery stores and other retail establishments will have signs that say things like, Pay Here, but I don’t think they have ones that explicitly say: You must purchase goods from this store via monetary means (i.e cash or card) before you can leave or else you will be arrested Sure, there also signs that probably say, “Shoplifters will be prosecuted” but, again, those kinds of signs are asking you to infer something–that you must buy before you can take–and are not explicitly stating the “rules” of the transaction. Just the consequences that will proceed it if it is not carried out properly.

A good counter-argument to the one just posed would, of course, be that the “etiquette” or “conduct” is imposed by greater sociocultural norms, which are implicit and so don’t always need enforcement through direct statement. By merit of being a social space, a grocery store has rules of practice anyone in the culture in which this grocery store exists will know or, at least, be familiar enough with to understand. So, I guess, my question is whether or not the internet culture of right now is at a place that allows members of it to properly recognize and interpret the signs that would signal whether or not a bot is a bot without an explicit warning/disclaimer?

….To be honest, my gut feeling is no. Non. Nada. 아니오.  Nílim. Really, no.

If the widespread acceptance of “fake news” is any indication of the internet society’s ability to interpret info–gauge its credibility–and make informed decisions, then I don’t believe any symbols/signals in online spaces ubiquitous and made intuit enough yet for bots to go unannounced.  That said, I still don’t want it be necessary that I reveal my bot in so many words. Personally, I just don’t feel like that is one of my responsibilities. But, does that make me part of a greater problem–the proliferation of falsehoods masquerading freely as not in digital spaces? Even if it seems like such a minor offense?

I believe this issue is a significant one when it comes to discussing netprov as a whole. In the Studio Visit with Mark Marino and Rob Wittig, both netprov creators touched upon this concern and said they came to the conclusion that “deception” is all well and good until someone gets “hurt”–their feelings or otherwise. Like, it’s “good fun”. A magic trick. Especially when there is a big reveal at the end. Of course, that presupposes an amicable end where everyone will feel inclined to come together for discussion…. but, whatev.

Anyway, I guess that’s where I my thoughts on this whole thing keep returning–to the idea that, so long as my deception, my magic trick, is not causing anyone undue* harm or offense, why is it wrong? Because lying is inherently wrong? All the time? There’s never an acceptable or appropriate reason to keep something hidden? You must be a delight when it comes to surprise parties, huh?

I’ll admit, though, I’m not sure where this leaves the issue of “fake news.” And, it’s my understanding that there are now courses being offered to study just that–the issue of it and, also, how it is even created. So, there are no simple solutions or short answers or, really, answers. All I can say, I think, is that the internet culture/society needs to integrate more of a desire for truth and for critical consumption of info into its practices. Finding something that agrees with one’s views of the world is “great” but, like, what are that something’s sources? And, do those sources have agendas of their own? What do they gain by attaining your belief? And, more, internet culture needs to shift away from aggression as a universal response–violently reacting to anyone or any group which dares to share a view that isn’t compatible with another’s. In many cases, I agree that anger is a justifiable feeling towards an idea being forwarded but it shouldn’t be the driving force behind your reaction. Anger seldom provokes meaningful discussion these days so much as it does a nasty argument. Then again, I’m speaking from a particular context of my own–which I can never fully exist outside of–so, maybe, these suggestions are “fine and good” but not useful in alleviating another’s struggles or solving their particular problems.

So, because I don’t want this post to turn into a venting/ranting one and I don’t feel like delving into ethics because, again, no. Nope. Nah–

//giphy.com/embed/Ozf9DBfaBGT8Q

via GIPHY

This is where Shadow Girl will take her leave and sign out. She’s got pesky faeries and persnickety prophets to eavesdrop on, after all. Much too much on her plate… ^.^

****

*according to how I define the word and how you do too~