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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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7 Ignorance Is Good Business 109


7 Ignorance Is Good Business oth knowledge and ignorance figure in the question of social power in the Information Age. Graham (2006, p. 4) argued that the knowledge economy, dependent as it is on the creation and negotiation of mean- ings, demonstrates the importance of the politics of information, writing: The knowledge economy is an economy of meaning. Political economy is the study of how values are produced, exchanged, distributed, and consumed (the economic), and how power is distributed, maintained, and exercised (the political) within particular social and historical contexts. The emergence of a “knowledge economy” in policy is nothing more than a political acknowledgement that certain classes of meaning are privileged; that there are more and less valuable meanings; that access to these mean- ings is restricted; and that meanings can in fact be owned and exchanged, if not en- tirely consumed. Roberts and Armitage (2008, pp. 345–346) took this concept further, sug- gesting that “the knowledge economy is precisely rooted in the production, distribution, and consumption of ignorance and lack of information” and that both knowledge and ignorance play important roles in the formation of what they called “advanced global capitalism.” They argued (p. 345) that “the knowledge economy is at the same time an ignorance economy” and despite improvements in science and production “many such production methods and services are predicated on ignorance-intensive activities, on activities that contribute to a decelerated pace of technoscientific development.” They argued (2008, p. 347) that even in the Information Age,...

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