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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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2 Ignorance in Context 3


2 Ignorance in Context The human being of the industrial age, overwhelmed by information, is experiencing an ‘ignorance explosion’. (Lukasiewicz, 1994, p. 7) In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty. (Marley, 1976) hilosophers, teachers, researchers and others have spent a good portion of the efforts towards human development dealing with questions about knowledge. What is it? How is it acquired, spread, preserved? We have asked fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge and the nature and extent of knowing. Knowledge has been an important part of many religious traditions, particularly as the key issue over which (some interpreta- tions suggest) Adam and Eve fell from God’s grace in the Garden of Eden. Some scholars have cited eighteenth-century philosopher Immanuel Kant’s ideas about the political implications of knowledge stemming, in part, from his famous definition of enlightenment (as quoted in translation by Cronin [2003, p. 51]) as follows: Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from his self-incurred minority. Mi- nority is the inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another… Any blanket endorsement of Kant’s broader views on enlightenment must, however, be tempered by a knowledge of his early views on a major facet of ignorance that will occupy our attention in the present discussion—namely the manifestation of ignorance in the form of racism. It is somewhat ironic that ideas about knowledge and enlightenment should be adopted from Kant. Though much of the analysis of Kant’s work suggests that he valued personal freedom and...

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