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The (Dis)information Age

The Persistence of Ignorance


Shaheed Nick Mohammed

The (Dis)information Age challenges prevailing notions about the impact of new information and media technologies. The widespread acceptance of ideas about the socially transformative power of these technologies demands a close and critical interrogation. The technologies of the information revolution, often perceived as harbingers of social transformation, may more appropriately be viewed as tools, capable of positive and negative uses. This book encourages a more rational and even skeptical approach to the claims of the information revolution and demonstrates that, despite a wealth of information, ignorance persists and even thrives. As the volume of information available to us increases, our ability to process and evaluate that information diminishes, rendering us, at times, less informed. Despite the assumed globalization potential of new information technologies, users of global media such as the World Wide Web and Facebook tend to cluster locally around their own communities of interest and even around traditional communities of geography, nationalism, and heritage. Thus new media technologies may contribute to ignorance about various «others» and, in this and many other ways, contribute to the persistence of ignorance.


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Preface ix


Preface hile walking through the publishers’ row at a conference in Singa- pore I could not help but be struck by the sheer volume of books on various aspects of the Information Age. Despite the existence of several authoritative analyses of various dimensions of the present technology- driven and communication-oriented Information Age, there appears to be a continuing appetite for deconstructing the ever-changing set of social and technical circumstances that characterize our modern age. Partly driven by the evolution of technologies, access to them and the mul- tiplicity of uses (both intended and unintended) to which these are put, any analysis of the Information Age is scarcely complete when it must yet again be redefined. Yet, an emerging set of assumptions have evolved with these analyses. These assumptions of the necessarily liberating, democratizing and beneficial qualities of information and communication technologies continue to be insufficiently addressed. Particularly problematic is the notion that these technologies and their popular modes of usage necessarily lead to a more informed public. This notion mandates a more careful look at the question of ignorance and how both established and emergent communication technolo- gies (and use modalities) may actually support long traditions of ignorance. The multiple titles with some variant of the term Information Age on the lists of various publishers prompted me to ask why there were not more titles on the dis-informing power of modern mediated communication. It was not so much that scholars were not interested in this topic—many have been skeptical...

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