Posted by: crudbasher | September 20, 2009

Week 3 – Blog Posting #5 -Social Media

While listening to Gordon Brown’s TED talk I was struck again by a question I had about the downside of all this social connectivity.  He is talking about Global Warming, one world government, etc… Politically I don’t agree with that kind of stuff so I was perhaps a bit skeptical of his argument.  This leads me to my question though.

If information is so much more freely distributed, why is it getting harder to find out what is the truth?  For example, right now in America, we are embroiled in a huge argument about our health care system.  Not only is what to do about it being argued, but both sides are claiming the other side is lying about basic facts.  How can it be so hard to find out what it true? 

I think this is a multipart problem.

1.  We see what we expect to see.  Nicholas D. Kristof in the New York Times wrote during the Democratic Debates last year:  “Another challenge is the biased way in which we gather information. We seek out information that reinforces our prejudices. (Kristof, 2008)”  When there was only three nightly news casts, everyone tended to have a more homogenized view of the world.   The view the networks broadcast tended to be more in the center because that was their audience.  These days, there is a broad range of news shows, from MSNBC on the left to Fox News on the right.  They both report the same things, just from different viewpoints.  Is one right?

2.  Media is now fully enmeshed in politics.  Barack Obama’s election was due in no small part to social media.  Individuals who in previous elections would be able to make a small donation, or man phones, or just vote, could now generate media supporting their candidate.  This information would then go around the world.  Never before has the power to shape world opinion been in everyone’s hands.  This used to be the exclusive domain of the established media.  Not any more.  Now anyone can be a journalist.  When US Airways flight 1549 crash landed in the Hudson River in January, the first picture the world saw of it was taken by a bystander with his iPhone in a ferryboat and posted on Flickr.  You can see it here as well as lots of other Web 2.0 links about the event.

So does this widespread media capability mean more truth?  I doubt it.  The truth is in the eye of the beholder.  We will always be questing for what we consider the truth.  Just ask the Flat Earth Society.

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