trusted filters

A recent study of over 5,000 US college students — Across the Great Divide — examined how they engage with news media. Not surprisingly, Facebook is a major social media source of news and conservative-leaning students prefer Fox News while liberal-leaning students prefer the New York Times. Faculty play a significant role in getting students to pay attention to news and to look at it more critically.

“It is notable that finding out about news from professors served both purposes — making the classroom an interesting crossroad between academia and daily life. Though professors may not be intentionally teaching news literacy, they may well be demonstrating that familiarity with news is a social practice and a form of civic engagement … Our findings suggest faculty have great potential to use discussions about news to model critical inquiry as a lifelong practice as well as practical ways to ascertain the trustworthiness of news sources. And while faculty may feel ill-equipped to engage students in discussion about highly charged and controversial topics, learning how to have these conversations is itself a valuable learning opportunity.” —FirstMonday


confronting the post-truth machine

post-truth (adjective) Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.Oxford Dictionaries

On Twitter, Tim Dickinson described four different types of distributed ‘fake news’.

‘Fake news’ is lazy language. Be specific. Do you mean:
A) Propaganda
B) Disinformation
C) Conspiracy theory
D) Clickbait


The Oxford Dictionaries define Propaganda as — “Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.” The RAND Corporation, a US think-tank with strong ties to the military industrial complex, recently looked at the influence of the Russian Propaganda Model and found that retractions and refutations of propaganda have limited impact and that the best way to deal with it is through forewarning.

“Forewarning is perhaps more effective than retractions or refutation of propaganda that has already been received. The research suggests two possible avenues:

Propagandists gain advantage by offering the first impression, which is hard to overcome. If, however, potential audiences have already been primed with correct information, the disinformation finds itself in the same role as a retraction or refutation: disadvantaged relative to what is already known.

When people resist persuasion or influence, that act reinforces their preexisting beliefs. It may be more productive to highlight the ways in which Russian propagandists attempt to manipulate audiences, rather than fighting the specific manipulations.”

Framing, or getting out the message first, has significant advantages. It is more powerful than attacking a previous frame (message). “1) Repetition strengthens the synapses in neural circuits that people use in thinking 2) Whoever frames first has an advantage 3) Negating a frame activates and strengthens it.” @GeorgeLakoff (more…)

technology, economics, and behaviour

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“We are creatures of habit. Technologies are teachers of habit.” @amicusadastra

“States fail when they cannot distinguish fools from serious men.”Antisthenes via @sentantiq

“I believe it was Arthur C. Marx who said that any sufficiently globalized corporation is indistinguishable from empire.” @annaleen (more…)

making space

Sometimes, perhaps too often, we are asking the wrong questions about workplace learning. For instance, we should not be asking how people can work more efficiently. We should be asking what are the best conditions for people to do their work.

A friend who works in retail banking told me recently how they loved their work but there was never enough time in the day to get everything done and they always left work feeling exhausted. In addition, the training they received, in the form of e-learning courses, was perceived to be useless. The best learning came from periods when the three co-workers could discuss a problem together. These were infrequent. I see similar conditions in most of the industries and organizations I consult with. There is just not enough time. (more…)

relatedness for knowledge sharing

In the HBR article Why Employees Don’t Share Knowledge with Each Other the authors find three main reasons [research paper behind a paywall]. First, people share knowledge when they are autonomously motivated, and not directed to do so, or pressured by peers. Second, cognitively demanding work is shared more frequently. Third, knowledge is shared best between equal peers and not with those who are dependent on the sharer. While this research was done with 394 Australian workers at various locations, as well as 195 Chinese workers at one company, it is reflective of older research — self-determination theory — conducted by Edward Deci and/or Richard Ryan from 1971 to 2018. (more…)

the silo effect

“Silos are cultural phenomena, which arise out of the systems we use to classify and organize the world,” states Gillian Tett in The Silo Effect. Silos are bounded hierarchies that define specialized work or areas of knowledge. They come in the form of academic fields, organizational departments, schools of thought, and many other forms created by humans. They are all based on an explicit or implicit model of how things are done. But all models are imperfect explanations of the world. Forgetting that can make us blind to what would be obvious to an outsider.

Tett first gives an overview of silo thinking and its effects — such as the 2008 financial crash — and goes into detail with examples. This is followed by various stories of silo-busting. The conclusion provides a few rules of thumb. Hierarchies and classification systems are necessary, especially in complex fields of practice, so we will never get rid of silos, says Tett. The challenge is to find ways to get outside their boundaries and see from multiple perspectives. Silo thinking can be countered by engaging ‘cultural translators’ — “people who are able to move between specialist silos and explain to those sitting inside one department what is happening elsewhere” — but only about 10% of an organization’s staff need these skills. Helping information to flow requires that everyone not only share data and information but also have the opportunity to interpret information and share their conclusions. Not everyone sees the world in the same way. Cultural translators are also ‘knowledge catalysts’. (more…)

beyond a binary society

Binary thinking is a lower level form of cognitive understanding, as put forward by Kieran Egan, which he calls Mythic Thinking. More complex forms of thinking are: Romantic, Philosophic, and Ironic. But binary, or mythic thinking, is an easy sell. It appeals to our emotions which we developed as children. Binary thinking blinds us. It’s not black and white, or right and wrong, or even Left and Right. Human society is many shades along various spectra.

“Every day I’m told our society, our system, has two sectors: the public sector and the private sector — the former referring to government and its agencies, the latter to the market system and its businesses. I’m also told that one sector or the other, or both in partnership, say as a public-private hybrid, offers the best way to deal with this or that domestic policy problem.

Our politicians, policymakers, and media commentators constantly rely on this public-private framework when they talk about fixing America’s health, education, childcare, housing, welfare, infrastructure, energy, communications, and environmental issues. Some proposals call for broader government programs; others urge more privatization; a few recommend improving public-private collaboration.” —David Ronfeldt


mediated perceptions

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“For years, a small hand lettered sign hung on the West wall of McLuhan’s Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. It read, ‘The important thing is to acquire perception, though it cost all you have.’” —Eric McLuhan, Poetics on the Warpath 2001 —@McLinstitute

What Is Education For? Six myths about the foundations of modern education, and six new principles to replace them — via @cogden

If education is to be measured against the standard of sustainability, what can be done? I would like to make four proposals. First, I would like to propose that you engage in a campus-wide dialogue about the way you conduct your business as educators. Does four years here make your graduates better planetary citizens or does it make them, in Wendell Berry’s words, “itinerant professional vandals”? Does this college contribute to the development of a sustainable regional economy or, in the name of efficiency, to the processes of destruction?


our learning blueprint

“Culture is an emergent property of human groups, a new property of the whole not manifested in the parts themselves. And it arises from humans having the brains and social systems that allow for retaining and exchanging ideas.

Human culture also accumulates. This means that brains and social systems capable of coping with more and more stuff are increasingly advantaged across time. And it also means that the force that culture has been applying to our evolution has been increasing over the past ten thousand to forty thousand years. Once humans evolved to be capable of teaching and learning, they developed a parallel evolutionary strand, cultural evolution, side by side with genetic. These two strands intersect repeatedly in many places and times. Each leaves its mark on the other. ” —Nicholas Christakis, Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Christakis’s ‘social suite’ is a range of traits that are common among all human societies, though not always manifested in the same way. For more information, read Howard Rheingold’s review of Blueprint. When it comes to the age-old question of Nurture versus Nature, Christakis answers that it is both, like a double helix. This is not a unique perspective. (more…)


To an older culture, a newer one often looks amoral, as morality guides older cultures. To a newer culture, older cultures appear to be primitive, lacking complexity. But each culture has its pros and cons. The challenge in developing what Lene Rachel Andersen calls ‘metamodernity‘ is in taking the positive aspects of previous human cultures in order to create a global culture that can deal with the complexity of technology, climate emergency, and evolving political situations.

The Nordic Bildung perspective of societal evolution aligns with David Ronfeldt’s TIMN Model, which I have discussed in: understanding the shift. Andersen suggests we can build upon the positive aspects of each previous societal form in order to create a metamodern society. We do not need to destroy the old ways. (more…)