“the strategic and purposeful production of ignorance”

You will not achieve an informed public simply by making sure that high quality content is publicly available and presuming that credibility is enough while you wait for people to come find it. You have to understand the networked nature of the information war we’re in, actively be there when people are looking, and blanket the information ecosystem with the information people need to make informed decisions.” —danah boyd

So concludes danah boyd in an excellent piece on what lies beneath the current flood of fake news: agnotology — “the strategic and purposeful production of ignorance”. Anyone who is concerned about the erosion of democracy as a result of the fragmentation of society through fake news, propaganda, or conspiracy theories should read this article. The conclusion is that we cannot achieve this by merely spreading good information.

Using McLuhan’s laws of media we can see that the digital information ecosystem extends emotion through these manufactured media spectacles, as the Christchurch murderer did. Traditional journalism with its attempts at presenting both sides is obsolesced by the very nature of its assumption of a neutral point of view. Return to nature movements — such as anti-vaxxers — retrieve the pastoral impulse for an imaginary kinder and gentler society. We are left in a state of constant doubt as conspiratorial content becomes easier to access on platforms like YouTube than on solid scientific information.

This is an information war. Understanding this is the first step in fighting for democracy.



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