“There is a crisis of ‘participatory culture.’ Let’s look at the example of danah boyd [I, too, refer to boyd’s self-criticism of media literacy in #100hardtruths #18] and how she’s deconstructing the ‘media literacy’ discourse about which so many of us had high hopes. A cynical reading of the news has overshadowed critical capacities. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, she asked if media literacy has backfired. Have trolling, clickbait, and fake news undermined the classic belief in the democratization of news production? Whereas, for the pre-internet babyboom generation, literacy was synonymous with the ability to question sources, deconstruct opinions, and read ideology into quasi-neutral messages, the meaning of literacy has shifted to the ability to produce one’s own content in the form of responses, contributions, blog postings, social media updates and images uploaded to video channels and photo-sharing sites. The shift from critical consumer to critical producer came with a price: information inflation (the well-meant prosumer synthesis never materialized). According to boyd, media literacy has come to resemble a distrust of media sources, and no longer fact-based critique. Instead of considering the evidence of experts, it has become sufficient to bring up one’s own experience, thus leading to a doubt-centric culture that can only be outraged and incapable of reasonable debate, a polarized culture that favors tribalism and self-segregation.”
“The current situation demands a rethinking of the usual demands of activists and civil society players with regard to ‘media literary.’ How can the general audience be better informed? Is this an accurate diagnosis of the current problem in the first place? How can holes be made in the filter bubbles? How can Do-It-Yourself be a viable alternative when social media are already experienced in such terms? And can we still rely on the emancipatory potential of ‘talking back to the media’ via the familiar social networking apps? How does manipulation function today? Is it still productive to deconstruct The New York Times (and its equivalents)? How might we explain the workings of the Facebook newsfeed to its user base? If we want to blame algorithms, how can we translate their hidden complexity to large audiences? A case in point might be Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction, in which she describes how ‘ill-conceived mathematical models micromanage the economy, from advertising to prisons.’ Her question is how to tame and, yes, disarm dangerous algorithms.
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- Image by Montclair State University