Curation Series: A Side Note and Warning
An important part of curation is to share the information in annotated form so others can discuss and add to the information.
Today, while following the lead of my blogging February Goals, I was reminded of a possible negative side of curated information: the algorithms of online social platforms and our own online groups creating “echo chambers” and dispensing misinformation. Knowing about it can prevent its problem and influence.
if algorithms are going to curate the world for us … then we need to make sure that they also show us things that are uncomfortable or challenging or important Eli Pariser
He also said what I believed:
the Internet meant something very different to me. It meant a connection to the world. It meant something that would connect us all together. And I was sure that it was going to be great for democracy and for our society.
But then, he said, this happened:
On social media platforms, we’re funneled into echo chambers so that we don’t connect with and converse with people’s differing ideas. In effect, media and social platforms “curate,” and sometimes that information is misinformation just for the echo chamber. A curation of misinformation.
That’s why effective conversation clarifies ideas, and brings us into common ground– not in comments to strangers, but in conversation with others we know who are viewing the same misinformation.
The TED Talk from 2011 shows that we haven’t learned from the past, and, as Sarah’s post explains, the problem is worse:
Right-wing media has a noted effect on shaping its viewers perceptions.The conservative media echo chamber has been partly responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, by consistently providing a platform for his ideas and defending him when attacked. In addition, conservative media has created the environment where presidential candidates feel comfortable enough to claim that the media has a liberal bias and therefore shouldn’t be trusted. This leads candidates to mold their candidacies towards what those who listen to conservative media want to hear and parrot popular conservative media hosts ideas and rhetoric. Media Matters
Now, in 2018, researchers can analyze what did and is happening so we can be aware and be active in evaluating and sharing validated resources. In a 2018 VOX review of several studies, a few points can guide our reactions.
“Although an ideologically broad swath of Twitter users were exposed to Russian trolls in the period leading up to the 2016 US presidential election, it was mainly conservatives who helped amplify their message,” USC researchers Adam Badawy, Emilio Ferrara, and Kristina Lerman wrote.
Why would that be? The article adds:
That conservatives are seemingly prone to spread content from Russian trolls or junk news isn’t a matter of intelligence — it might be because they are more attuned to threats, even if those threats aren’t real. A study published in the journal Psychological Science (and cited by the Atlantic) found that right-leaning people are often hyper-attuned to what they perceive as potential hazards and tend to believe signs of danger rather than ignore them.
It’s a perception of the world, a protective mode. That, in itself, is a good thing. And knowing this — being aware — can lead to taking time to evaluate the information. In the article, this is what it seems liberals take the time to do:
Other researchers have also found that beyond risk perception, liberals appear to have more of a need to think critically than conservatives. In a conversation with the Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham, professor Stefan Pfattheicher of Ulm University noted it’s not a question of intelligence, just ways of thinking. “This seems to be more a matter of motivation to process information (or news) in a critical, reflective thinking style than the ability to do so,” he said.
Knowing this, conservatives and liberals might be able, with this awareness, be more active together in evaluating information and accessing it better through thoughtful dialogue. We might also demand from all our politicians, that they be more accurate and transparent in their promotions.
Knowing this, we can, in our bubbles, be more reflective of the many ideas of the world.
It’s only natural that we group together with people of similar ideas, yet we grow when we know the ideas of others. We may grow when we analyze the information before we share– we can show voracity in our struggle to validate the truth and authenticity of the information we share. We may grow by revising our ideas or we may grow by understanding better why we think and believe the way we do. Like a bubble, we can hold on to and protect what’s true to us, and we can still reflect on and accept that others’ ideas are valid as well.
What can we do?
In 2014, I wrote a post about being Future Ready. It’s still relevant today, and includes these steps:
I think we need to be active citizens– in engaging others with talking about current issues.
Susan commented on Sarah’s post with the best explanation of how conversations can help us; she said:
What I value are those who offer me subtle (and not so subtle) intellectual challenges to my thinking, thereby not creating an echo chamber. I don’t need teeth-gnashing opposition as much as I need the person near me to question me in a way which shows they truly listen and read what I say and think.
Conversations can nudge us– and we need that to change for the better.
I wrote about this as a thing I plan to Change, reminding myself to mind my own messages; the post is also filled with resources for search strategies, internet safety, fake news, website/source verification, critical thinking, socratic discussions, and questioning techniques.
I’ve taken action, privately, with people who send me propaganda and ask me to “share the — out of it.” I do the research on the source. Sometimes I led to new information, but most often its misinformation. After researching the information about the source and discovering the facts, I send that information back, including how sad it feels to have such misinformation spread. It’s a small step with people I know.
This also added to my own curation on the topic — I’m better informed.
Validating Sources? How?
The American Library Association provides a lengthy discussion on evaluating information here.
Other sources for evaluation online information:
- Kathy Schrock’s Critical Evaluation page
- November Learning
- Common Sense Digital Citizenship
- Google’s Be Internet Awesome
- KQED: Honest Truth About Fake News
- KQED: A Conspiracy Video Teaches Fake News
- New York Times: Evaluating Sources
- TEDed: How False News Can Spread
Specific information on website authenticity:
- MediaBias FactCheck
- Washington State University Series of Guides
- Teaching Tolerance Evaluating Websites
- Edutopia’s Evaluation Websites
- Education World’s Guide to Source Credibility
The International Federation of Library Associations provides this infographic:
In all our curation, sharing, and connections, should we cater to the truth, and speak up to that truth?
I trust Sarah’s work, so I considered the information in her post with care when I searched her blog for “curate.” She’s in my bubble, my echo chamber, and I’m OK with that because I know, if we disagree, we would be able to discuss our ideas to understand each other. We’ll see what each other means.
How does considering “echo chambers” and misinformation inform your curation strategies?
How do you protect and extend your own “bubble?”
How do you act on misinformation?
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All doodle art by Sheri; Other images as indicated in captions.