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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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6 Disinformation, Propaganda and Video Games 87

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6 Disinformation, Propaganda and Video Games he study of modern communication is often traced to Harold Lasswell’s scholarly interest in the role of propaganda during World War I. Lasswell (1927b, p. 627) defined propaganda quite broadly as “the management of collective attitudes by the manipulation of significant symbols” and argued, even at that time, for a technological basis, writing (p. 630) that “the ever-present function of propaganda in modern life is in large measure attributable to the social disorganization which has been precipitated by the rapid advent of technological changes.” To provide some chronological context, World War I was a time when radio was still in its experimental stages and wartime propaganda was already a major issue—suggesting that the phenomenon pre dates our Information Age. Further support for this notion can be found in such excursions as Wilker- son’s (1967) study of war propaganda in the Spanish-American War of 1898 (in which privately-owned newspapers were heavily involved in beating the war drums). Lasswell’s (1927a) seminal work Propaganda Technique in the World War reached even further back in time to recount tales of horror used to sway public opinion against the enemy during the Crusades. Taken at its simplest, wartime propaganda has historically served impor- tant roles both on the frontlines and on the home front. Lasswell (1927b) suggested that war propaganda involved placing the blame for war on the enemy, claiming victory (and associating that claim with divine influence), making the case for war by citing such benefits as...

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