The Collapse of Meaning in a Post-Truth World

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“The trouble now is not that we aren’t using language clearly enough, but that words and the truths they convey are no longer as stable as they used to be. […] In the political arena, drawing on cultural and contextual implicatures to make an audience believe something is a common way to plausibly deny and breezily wave off accusations of lying. So, it doesn’t matter exactly what is said, it only matters what listeners think you said or meant. It’s sadly unsurprising that, done on a large scale, it can be easy to confuse, normalize, and legitimize this kind of misbehavior. Plausible deniability has never been easier thanks to a fast shifting language and cleverly worded implicatures.”

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“In a post-truth era, public discourse can become muddled as words rapidly develop new meanings and connotations for different groups, increasing in unwieldy complexity.

Even if both sides of a political divide ultimately want to solve the same big problems in society, though they may use the same words, those words sometimes seem to mean entirely different things. When it comes to hotly-debated concepts that trigger emotional or ideological reactions, such as ‘climate change,’ the same words can be received completely differently by different people. The common semantic ground we normally depend on suddenly seems shaky.

Thanks to contexts in which implicatures are key, listeners are always reading between the lines and filling in blanks for themselves, usually with their own beliefs and ideologies. And so, the gaps in understanding one another can be as wide as if we were speaking completely different languages.”

SOURCE: Luu, Chi. “The Collapse of Meaning in a Post-Truth World.” JSTOR Daily.

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News and Media Literacy the Way It’s Always Been Taught May Not Be the Right Response to Fake News Woes

fake-news-old-timey-crop-990x507“Citizens can introduce and spread and perpetuate questionable information, and do so not because they aren’t media-literate, but because they have their own value system, and they’re trying to advocate for that:  [But] if finding truth is not as large a priority as finding personally relevant information, then what good is knowing how to critique a message in the first place? We suggest that mainstream media sources, in doing their jobs as traditional information outlets, end up legitimating spectacle. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just digital culture, pushing up against traditional forms of storytelling and reporting.”

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“Young people are really good at sharing and promoting ideas they like and things that reinforce their value systems. But in terms of interrogation or stopping to do analysis, oftentimes, […] they end up stopping at the level of consumption, and using weaker forms of expression — liking, retweeting, resharing. Engaging critical dialogue, or providing their own sense of reflection on this, often doesn’t happen. That leads to perpetuating some of these false narratives we see emerging.”

SOURCE: Wang, Shan. “News and Media Literacy the Way It’s Always Been Taught May Not Be the Right Response to Fake News Woes.Nieman.

How Facebook, Fake News & Friends Are Warping Your Memory

“Memory is notoriously fallible, but some experts worry that a new phenomenon is emerging. ‘Memories are shared among groups in novel ways through sites such as Facebook and Instagram, blurring the line between individual and collective memories,’ says psychologist Daniel Schacter, who studies memory at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ‘The development of Internet-based misinformation, such as recently well-publicized fake news sites, has the potential to distort individual and collective memories in disturbing ways.’”

nature_NF_Memory-illo_09.03.2017“Although history has frequently been interpreted for political ends, psychologists are now investigating the fundamental processes by which collective memories form, to understand what makes them vulnerable to distortion. They show that social networks powerfully shape memory, and that people need little prompting to conform to a majority recollection — even if it is wrong. Not all the findings are gloomy, however. Research is pointing to ways of dislodging false memories or preventing them from forming in the first place.”

“To combat the influence of fake news, says Micah Edelson, a memory researcher at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, ‘it’s important to understand not only the creation of these sites, but also how people respond to them’”.

SOURCE: Spinney, Laura. “How Facebook, Fake News and Friends Are Warping Your Memory.” Nature News.

The Dying Tongues of Telangana and Andhra

“With the death of every language, dies a rich culture. It’s an identity that needs to be preserved in the face of an ever-changing world.”

57253816.cms“The contribution of these tribal communities to Telugu culture has been very significant. Many literary works in Telugu have elements from these tribal languages which have also contributed greatly to the evolution of art and culture in the region. Languages are store houses of culture, literature and knowledge. The Chenchu tribe has a rich oral literature; they have high knowledge about herbal medicines. The Valmiki tribe that speaks Kupia has a fascinatingly rich knowledge of forests, flora and fauna. Once these languages die, the wisdom is lost forever.”

SOURCE: Paul, Papri. “The Dying Tongues of Telangana and Andhra.” The Times of India.

Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong

dewaal-human-rights_body2“Human rights advocacy is a critique of power, not a directive for exercising it; humility is not only a necessary character trait but also an ideal. I now believe that a fully emancipatory human rights practice must be based on an agenda set by the affected people. This requires challenging the iniquitous structures of power that too often stand in the way of emancipation or co-opt narratives of human rights for their own ends.”

SOURCE: Waal, Alex de. “Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong.” Boston Review.

With ‘Fake News,’ Trump Moves from Alternative Facts to Alternative Language

“The ability to reshape language — even a little — is an awesome power to have. According to language experts on both sides of the aisle, the rebranding of fake news could be a genuine threat to democracy.”

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In other words, calling something fake news implies that it isn’t news at all. And using that phrase in the way that Trump uses it, said Berkeley professor George Lakoff, is dangerous:

 

“It is done to serve interests at odds with the public good. It also undermines the credibility of real news sources, that is, the press. Therefore it makes it harder for the press to serve the public good by revealing truths. And it threatens democracy, which requires that the press function to reveal real truths.”

SOURCE: Kurtzleben, Danielle. “With ‘Fake News,’ Trump Moves from Alternative Facts to Alternative Language.” NPR.