Truth, Post-Truth and Technology
About the Course
Human rights abuses happen constantly. Yet before we can act, we need to know exactly what’s happening. In a time where anyone can use misinformation, deepfakes, and even holograms to push false narratives, separating truth and falsehood is getting harder than ever. Technologies are emerging that aim to assist human rights fact-finders in verifying instances of abuse, yet they bring with them a range of new problems and difficulties.
What is the most prevalent form of fakery, and how might we contribute to it? Who are the strategic neo-Luddites, and what has deterred them from embracing technology? Why do we embrace efficiency, and what does it have to do with the Enlightenment? Why should we be sceptical of mainstream news outlets claiming to be fact-finders, and what does it have to do with the ‘Trump Bump’?
Co-Director of the Centre of Governances and Human Rights Ella McPherson looks at how technologies are changing the work of human rights fact-finders.
By the end of the course, you will have learned:
- What the most problematic form of fakery is, and how it’s already being used.
- What the single most important value for fact-finders is.
- How fact-finding has evolved, while the principles of verification remain unchanged.
- Why there is a conflict between efficiency and solidarity.
- How to verify a video, and how to make sure your own videos are easily verifiable.
- What the biggest database in the world is, and how it’s contributed to poverty in India.
- How to get verified on Twitter.
As part of the course, there are in-video quiz questions to consolidate your learning.
IAI Academy courses are designed to be challenging but accessible to the interested student. No specialist knowledge is required.
Our editors have brought together a range of content from across IAI.tv which explores the ideas in this course. See our suggested reading below.
About the Instructor
Ella McPherson is a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of New Media and Digital Technology at the University of Cambridge. She also co-directs the Centre of Governance and Human Rights, where she leads the research theme on human rights in the digital age. Ella McPherson's research focuses on symbolic struggles surrounding the media in both democratic and digital transition. She is currently working on the examining the potential for human rights NGOs to use social media to generate governmental accountability.
Part One: The Challenge to FactsHow does the fragmented nature of social media change the way facts are established online? How can we explain what we’ve learned from the post-truth phenomenon?
Part Two: The FutureHow can social media be used to hold power and government to account? Can we ensure that technological progress is more than just rhetoric?
Suggested Further Readings
- Boyd, Danah. “Transparency Is Not Enough.” In Gov2.0 Expo. Washington, DC, 2010. http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2010/Gov2Expo.html
- Brock, André. “Beyond the Pale: The Blackbird Web Browser’s Critical Reception.” New Media & Society 13, no. 7 (November 1, 2011): 1085–1103.
- Engle Merry, Sally. The Seductions of Quantification: Measuring Human Rights, Gender Violence and Sex Trafficking. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016
- Ford, Heather, and Judy Wajcman. “‘Anyone Can Edit’, Not Everyone Does: Wikipedia’s Infrastructure and the Gender Gap.” Social Studies of Science 47, no. 4 (August 1, 2017): 511–27.
- Harding, Sarah. “Feminism, Science, and the Anti-Enlightenment Critiques.” In Feminism/Postmodernism, edited by Linda J. Nicholson, 83–106, 1990.
- Held, Virginia. The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, and Global. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006. [“Introduction”]
- Mansell, Robin. “The Life and Times of the Information Society.” Prometheus 28, no. 2 (2010): 165–86.
- Morozov, Evgeny. To Save Everything, Click Here: Technology, Solutionism, and the Urge to Fix Problems That Don’t Exist, 2014.[EM4