Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


I'm Thankful for Multiple Perspectives

A new goal: I want to start browsing news headlines at instead of--or, at least, in addition to--my preferred sources.

Here's why:
Study Finds Students Have 'Dismaying' Inability To Tell Fake News From Real

A new study from Stanford researchers . . . evaluated students' ability to assess information sources and described the results as "dismaying," "bleak" and "[a] threat to democracy." . . .

They weren't looking for high-level analysis of data but just a "reasonable bar" of, for instance, telling fake accounts from real ones, activist groups from neutral sources and ads from articles. . . .

Here's a sample of some of the results:

  • Most middle school students can't tell native ads from articles.
  • Most high school students accept photographs as presented, without verifying them.
  • Many high school students couldn't tell a real and fake news source apart on Facebook.
  • Most college students didn't suspect potential bias in a tweet from an activist group.
  • Most Stanford students couldn't identify the difference between a mainstream and fringe source.
 . . . The solution, they write, is to teach students — or, really, all Internet users — to read like fact-checkers.

That means not just reading "vertically," on a single page or source, but looking for other sources — as well as not taking "About" pages as evidence of neutrality, and not assuming Google ranks results by reliability.

"The kinds of duties that used to be the responsibility of editors, of librarians now fall on the shoulders of anyone who uses a screen to become informed about the world," Wineburg told NPR. "And so the response is not to take away these rights from ordinary citizens but to teach them how to thoughtfully engage in information seeking and evaluating in a cacophonous democracy."
I don't think these results are unique to students, but extend to adults as well.

And it's more important now than ever because of the proliferation of fake accounts, activist groups, ads, and biased sources.

And it's not just shady sources. Consider:
The Kremlin Would Be Proud of Trump’s Propaganda Playbook

The Donald is a master of these four techniques of misinformation: dismiss, distract, distort, and dismay.

 . . . The ultimate purpose of all this—the 4Ds, the phony news stories, and the trolls and bots that amplify them—isn't so much to prove a particular set of facts, but rather to distort information so that no one knows what to believe. This uncertainty benefits the propaganda pusher, whether it is Trump or the Kremlin. "The point is to get people so emotional and so confused that they give up on the debate. And once you've done that, you've silenced the voice of a potential critic," says Nimmo. "If they can do it long enough and if people generally switch off from the mainstream media, it gets so much easier to spread the lies."

What's more, this approach works even when the lies are debunked. "The issue, which is seriously real, is literally tailor-made to be dismissed as conspiracy theory and therefore ignored," says Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer who now works at the Soufan Group, a security consulting firm. "That's that whole point of the Russian effort. Create enough doubt for everything so that when the proof comes it is washed in the same disdain for all alleged truth." . . .
While this admittedly left-leaning source calls out Donald Trump and the Kremlin--and I agree they are currently among the worst offenders, as evidenced by recent post Storyteller-in-Chief--this kind of propaganda-as-news approach seems to have become the general landscape lately. There is a sense that all information is distorted, so there is no need to believe that facts are facts, truth is truth--and, lacking shared facts, agreement becomes impossible to reach.

In addition to the fact that most news sources are now understood to report events with some sort of inherent bias (at the least) is the reality that most of us get our news through filter bubbles and rarely see sources that don't confirm our own biases.
How We Broke Democracy - Our technology has changed this election, and is now undermining our ability to empathize with each other

The thing that has become the most clear to us this election year is that we don’t agree on the fundamental truths we thought we did. . . .

The thing that both groups have in common is very apparent: A sense of profound confusion about how the other side cannot understand their perspective. . . .

I believe that the way we consume information has literally changed the kind of people we are. . . .

Most of the events that you read about will come through this feed. Most of your opinions will be shaped by it. This is a stream of information that is curated and limited by the things that will not make you uncomfortable — and certainly will not provide equal airtime to opposing viewpoints. . . .

There is a funny quirk in our nature that psychologists call Confirmation Bias. It’s a real thing, and you can see people fall into it all the time. It is the natural human tendency to interpret new information as confirming our existing beliefs or theories. When we have a choice to read news that confirms our worldview or challenges it — we almost always choose the former, regardless of the evidence.

Since we feel uncomfortable when we’re exposed to media that pushes back on our perspective (like that weird political uncle you see at a family reunion), we usually end up avoiding it. It requires a lot of effort to change opinions, and generally it feels gross to have difficult chats with people that don’t agree with us. So, we politely decline the opportunity to become their friend, buy their product, read their magazine, or watch their show.

We insulate ourselves in these ‘information ghettos’ not because we mean to, but because it’s just easier. . . .

Online this has allowed us to insulate ourselves entirely within groups that may be a tiny fraction of our nation, without ever seeing another side. We instinctively feel like this is representative of a majority.

These online communities — to us — might seem to be purveyors of truth that embody The Facts better than anywhere else. They also might feel like they are enormous — thousands of people might agree with you. But that doesn’t make them true, or a majority opinion. . . .

The precursor to building walls around nations is building walls around ideas. . . .
So what to do about it? Empathize.

How to empathize? Contact Increases Empathy, Insulation Kills It.

We have to start getting out of our bubbles, see beyond our filters, and have contact with those who have differing perspectives. The article above ends with some ideas for how to go about that.

For an example of Facebook filter bubbles in action, there is Blue Feed, Red Feed.

And there are computer programmers and coders working on ways to change the algorithms: Coders Think They Can Burst Your Filter Bubble with Tech.

But, more importantly, is bursting it yourself. AllSides doesn't just give examples of different feeds, it provides those actual feeds. It's a way to browse different perspectives at the same time, to see how events are being reported by different sources with different biases.

And we need to slow down. When we see a headline or story that gets us fired up, we should take some time to find other sources and perspectives before we react, let it confirm our biases, and share it for others to do the same. We need to take more time to listen.


At 11/23/2016 4:31 PM, Blogger Degolar said...

We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here's What We Learned


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