[Humanist] 30.182 social media

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Jul 18 09:23:28 CEST 2016


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 182.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (19)
        Subject: social media and Humanist

  [2]   From:    Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>                    (87)
        Subject: Re:  30.176 pubs: history of algorithms; social media vs the
                truth


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 16 Jul 2016 10:17:24 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: social media and Humanist

Out of paradoxes may come qualifications. Thanks to Dino Buzzetti for 
reminding us of Epimenides, who illustrated a problem in logic by 
telling a story about a fellow from Crete who declared that all Cretans 
are liars. But I think that 'social media' comprise a broad genre of 
online mechanisms to which Humanist, by ongoing design, does not belong. 
Just as rumours passed around in the village square differ from news 
programmes and discussions on radio so, I would say, Twitter, Facebook 
et al. differ from the kind of thing Humanist is. Once upon a time it 
was the only game online, or nearly, and we could be rather peppery, in 
danger of flame-wars (some of which I had to put out). But in its rather 
sedate middle age its eyes are turned if not to eternity then certainly 
to old questions in new guises rather than the latest of whatever. At least 
characteristically, sometimes, we manage that.

Yours,
WM
-- 
Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney
University


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Date: Sat, 16 Jul 2016 13:16:16 +0200
        From: Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>
        Subject: Re:  30.176 pubs: history of algorithms; social media vs the truth
        In-Reply-To: <20160715050231.22D087B60 at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Willard,

I share many of the concerns Katharine Viner writes of in "How
technology disrupted the truth" The Guardian, 12 July 2016.
But her title is silly and misleading.  And her analysis is
flawed, I think.

The Social Media she refers to is made up of the use of new
communication tools, that, in turn, depend upon new(ish)
communication infrastructures.  These tools and their use
afford new social practices.  Practices that are at least
different in scale, if not in kind, from previous social
practices.

Technology is not to blame here.  Human practices are.  Yes,
they are human practices made possible by new tools rendered
using new(ish) technologies.  But to blame these tools and
technologies is to miss-attribute responsibility for what is
happening to journalism.  Why do we want to do this?

I don't like the following way of seeing things, but I don't
see what is unreasonable about it.

Viner's analysis is flawed from the start by referring to, and
supposing there exists, The Truth.  It is never the case that
there is only one truth.  In any situation, even in physics
research, there are as many truths as there are people who can
substantiate and successfully defend a claim to having the
truth.

I don't think it's a post-truth world we're now moving into,
as Viner, and others, tell us.  What's happening is that
Social Media is making it more possible for more people,
sometimes many many more, to establish and defend what they
each take to be true, and want others to take as true.  What's
breaking down is the idea that certain institutions in our
society are the sole owners and makers and defenders of truth.

It's people and their (newish) social practices who are
disrupting this (previous) truth about truth, not tools and
not the technologies we render these tools from.

We are seeing, I think, many many more people engaging in
truth making than used to be the case.  And this is having
profound consequences.  But, Viner exaggerates her case by
saying "everyone has their own facts," and she thereby damages
her argument.  It certainly is not everybody, even if it is
many more than it used to be.

I think this is the crucial point that Viner, with her
mis-directed blame, flawed analysis, and unwarranted
exaggeration, fails to bring out: truth is still being made
and manipulated, but now the powers of truth making and
manipulation, though certainly not possessed by everybody, are
now many more and varied than they used to be, and, as a
consequence, now much harder for the traditional truth making
and defending institutions to influence and control.

This is not a kind of world I welcome.  But I think this is
more like the world we getting, and it's our (new) social
practices we have to blame for this, not our tools and
technologies.

Best regards,

Tim

> On 15 Jul 2016, at 07:02, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
> 
> 
>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 176.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
>  [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (13)
>        Subject: social media vs the truth
> 
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Date: Thu, 14 Jul 2016 11:15:00 +0100
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: social media vs the truth
> 
> Katharine Viner, "How technology disrupted the truth"
> The Guardian, 12 July 2016
> 
>> Social media has swallowed the news -- threatening the funding of
>> public-interest reporting and ushering in an era when everyone has
>> their own facts. But the consequences go far beyond journalism.
> 
> See: 
> https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth?CMP=ema-3359
> 
> Yours,
> WM
> -- 
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney
> University
> 





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