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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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9 Social Media, Disinformation and Ignorance 147


9 Social Media, Disinformation and Ignorance n July 29, 2010, news services reported that personal information including contacts of more than 100 million Facebook users had been collected and made publicly available (, 2010). Users had the ability to either reveal or conceal that information while it was on the Facebook system but the public spread of the information on the open Internet meant that users lost the ability to control those details and they no longer had a choice to protect their privacy. The incident, downplayed by the operators of the Facebook system, revealed something of the increasingly important role of social networks in everyday life and the many possibilities and pitfalls of involvement in these networks. The various social networking platforms have garnered the expected media buzz and prompted the usual knee jerk moral panic that characterizes each new technology or substantial revision of communications media. Yet, beyond the usual skepticism and xenophobia about “new” communications technolo- gies, neo–Luddites and technorati along with the general public are faced with several emerging issues related to social networks and their user communities. From privacy and intellectual property concerns to violence and even deaths associated with online social networks, modern society is faced with an evolving set of technologies that not only redefine virtual relationships but also impact real lives. Fuelled by the fact that organizers of pro-democracy protests in North Africa and the Middle East used Facebook as one tool (among several others) to mobilize, the hype persists with...

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