- Oct 2017
Dewey and Lippmann had a well-documented public feud over the role of citizens in democracy.
Here are two articles a about their frequent debates:
Dewey, unlike Lippmann, believed in the underlying principle that humans were capable of discernment and if they were taught the skills to correctly identify inaccurate media sources, then we would have better journalism because citizens demanded it. This theme of human agency in media is a dominant one throughout this section.
"What we're experiencing," says Carr, "is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: we are evolving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest."
Rheingold includes a large swath of Nicholas Carr's quotes on this page and next, which I'm not sure is helping his larger point. I happen to agree with some of Carr's arguments including this one. While I do believe its overstated, I think that his point that with there being so much content just 'out there' on the Internet, its hard to wade through the sludge for correct information, particularly if you don't have well-developed digital literacy skills.
This is another area where media stratification comes into play. The Internet has exacerbated the issue of confirmation bias in current events, because of its democratized nature. Everyone can publish content on the web, and because of that then anyone can find a source that aligns perfectly with their beliefs and biases, whether they're grounded in fact or not.
This is a huge contributor to the rise of the alt-right over the past year and a half. The publication of conspiracy theories, of abhorrent racist content, of confederate rage that make up alt-right circles on the Internet was a major news story during America's most recent election. Carr's point about the Internet forcing us to become 'hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest' means that people naturally flock to sources that confirm biases they already hold.
Unproductive for the goal oriented • Unhealthy for everybody • Fatal for a growing number • Addictive for some • An invitation to bad parenting • Sodally alienating • A cause for a dangerous loss of solitude
This list of potential consequences of media-related distraction that Rheingold gives us also happen to create conditions for how ISIS recruits online, according to this Brookings article
Digital isolation is a key component in the ‘Discovery’ phase of terrorist recruitment that J.M. Berger lays out and also identified as a consequence in Rheingold’s assessment. Now of course, it’s not as if every time you get distracted from your homework and take a BuzzFeed quiz you’re a target for terrorist recruitment. It requires a concerted effort to learn more about ISIS in order for the organization to pick up on a recruit’s interest. The idea is that the more distracted you become by delving into ISIS-friendly spaces on the Internet, the more you become a potential target of ISIS recruiters. This is also an example of media stratification. The way that terrorists radicalize targets is by surrounding them with a digital community in the ‘Create micro-community’ stage of recruitment, further segregating the potential recruit into pro-ISIS circles. This experience of ISIS recruitment shows the extremes of media-triggered distraction.
- Sep 2017
e development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions.
This quote is how Rheingold introduces one of his central themes: distraction, its evolving role in our constantly connected world, and how to deal with it productively.
But this quote also provides an avenue to a topic that Rheingold briefly touches on later that I think is at the core of the intersection of our current political and digital discussions. That is, what is the impact of media stratification on our society? In all manner of our current dialogues, from the 2016 election, to opinions on climate change, even to the strategies of 21st century terrorist recruitment, how do we as digital citizens fight through the noise of partisan, unaccredited content to find truth? In many instances, especially in cases where someone may not possess the digital skills necessary to adequately judge the veracity of sources, we end up falling into traps of only trusting media outlets that confirm the opinions we already believe to be true. Huxley, and by extension Rheingold, points to humanity's bent towards distraction as the main source of this media stratification and increasing digital isolation into circles that continually reinforce whatever beliefs are held up as true.