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The (Dis)information Age

The Persistence of Ignorance

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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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3 The Information Age in Perspective 25

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3 The Information Age in Perspective The Ministry of Truth—Minitrue, in Newspeak—was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white con- crete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party: WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH (Orwell, 1949, p. 2) n 1913—at the tail end of the Industrial Revolution, French poet Charles Péguy said the world had changed less since the time of Jesus Christ than in the previous thirty years. The exuberance and exaggerations of the Information Age are, therefore, not unique. Nor indeed are the problems of the information or the social responses to its changes. Floridi’s (2009, p. 154) perspective is somewhat typical of the widely accepted tropes of suddenness, revolution and inevitability that one may find even in critical discourses on the Information Age described in the following terms: The almost sudden burst of a global information society, after a few millennia of rela- tively quieter gestation, has generated new and disruptive challenges, which were largely unforeseeable only a few decades ago… The information revolution has been changing the world profoundly, irreversibly, and problematically since the fifties, at a breathtaking pace, and with unprecedented scope, making the creation, management, and utilization of information, communication, and computational resources vital issues. TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTIONS Cook (1995,...

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